BACKGROUND: The maintenance of fecal continence depends upon coordinated interactions between the pelvic floor, anorectum, and anal sphincter complex orchestrated by central and peripheral neural activities. The current techniques to objectively measure anorectal function rely on fixed diameter catheters placed inside the anal canal with a rectal balloon to obtain measurements of anal resting and squeeze function, and rectal compliance. Until recently it had not been possible to measure the distensibility of the anal canal, or in other words its ability to resist opening against an increasing pressure, which has been proposed as the main determinant of a biological sphincter's function. Anal acoustic reflectometry (AAR) and the functional lumen imaging probe (FLIP) are two novel, provocative techniques that dynamically assess the anal sphincter complex under volume-controlled distension. In doing so, both provide information on the viscoelastic properties of the anal canal and offer new insights into its function.
PURPOSE: This review details the current and potential future applications of AAR and FLIP and highlights the unanswered questions relevant to these new technologies.
Bibliographical note© 2022 The Authors. Neurogastroenterology & Motility published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- anal canal
- fecal incontinence