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 New York University Grossman School of Medicine received honorariums from Grifols 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 October 11, 2020; expires October 11, 2023


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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