Bowel dysfunction in neurologic disorders

Jina Rachel Park MD (

Dr. Park of New York University Langone Medical Center has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Howard W Sander MD (

Dr. Sander of the NYU School of Medicine received honorariums from CSL for consulting work.

Amy A Pruitt MD, editor. (

Dr. Pruitt of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Originally released September 25, 2007; last updated August 30, 2019; expires August 30, 2022

This article includes discussion of bowel dysfunction in neurologic disorders, neurogenic bowel dysfunction, bowel dysfunction in neurologic disease, constipation, and fecal incontinence. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.


Bowel dysfunction occurs in many nervous system diseases. It manifests primarily as constipation or fecal incontinence, with diarrhea being less common. This article will review the following:


• The neural control of colonic function and defecation


• Bowel dysfunction in selected neurologic diseases


• General considerations and management of constipation and fecal incontinence

Key points


• Bowel dysfunction in neurologic diseases results from disturbance in the complex neural control of colonic function and defecation.


• Bowel dysfunction is common in patients with neurologic diseases and may have considerable impact on quality of life.


• Bowel dysfunction should be recognized in the context of neurologic disease and can be managed with a number of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic approaches.

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