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The role of neuromodulation in chronic functional constipation: a systematic review

Journal Volume 84 - 2021
Issue Fasc.3 - Reviews
Author(s) N. Pauwels 1 #, C. Willemse 1 #, S. Hellemans 1 #, N. Komen 1 2, S. Van den Broeck 1 2, J. Roenen 1 3, T. Van Aggelpoel 1 3, H. De Schepper 1 4
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PAGES 467-476
(1) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Antwerp, Belgium
(2) Department of Abdominal Surgery, University Hospital Antwerp, Belgium
(3) Department of Urology, University Hospital Antwerp, Edegem, Belgium
(4) Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital Antwerp, Belgium
(#) Contributed equally

Background: Chronic functional constipation is a highly prevalent disorder in which, when conservative measures fail to relieve symptoms, surgical interventions are sometimes indicated. In recent years, neuromodulation for the treatment of functional constipation has gained interest but its role and effectiveness are still unclear. The purpose of this review is to provide a systematic overview on the current literature on the different modalities of neurostimulation and their effect on chronic functional constipation in adults as reported in the literature.

Methods: A search in the literature for articles concerning the effect of different types of neuromodulation on constipation was performed in PubMed using extensive search terms for the different modalities of neuromodulation. Studies and trials were checked for eligibility. For all types of neuromodulation together, 27 articles were included.

Results: 17 studies were included on SNM (sacral nerve modulation). Although multiple studies show positive results on the effect of SNM in constipation, double-blind crossover RCT’s (randomised controlled trials) showed no significant effect. 3 studies were included for tSNS (transcutaneous sacral nerve stimulation), 2 for PTNS (percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation) and 2 for TTNS (transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation). Studies and trials on these modalities of neuromodulation reported ambiguous results on statistical significance of the effect. For transcutaneous IFC (interferential current therapy) 2 studies were included, which both reported a statistically significant effect on all outcomes.

Conclusion: The beneficial effect of neuromodulation in chronic functional constipation remains questionable. However, neuro-modulation might be worth considering in patients refractory to treatment before turning to more invasive measures. Future research should shed more light on the effects of neuromodulation in constipation.

Keywords: constipation, implantable neurostimulators, electric stimulation therapy, transcutaneous nerve stimulation, percutaneous electric nerve stimulation.

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
© Acta Gastro-Enterologica Belgica.
PMID 34599572