Magnetic resonance imaging of anatomic and dynamic defects of the pelvic floor in defecatory disorders

J. G. Fletcher, R. F. Busse, S. J. Riederer, D. Hough, T. Gluecker, C. M. Harper, A. E. Bharucha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Endoanal ultrasound identifies anal sphincter anatomy, and evacuation proctography visualizes pelvic floor motion during simulated defecation. These complementary techniques can evaluate obstructed defecation and fecal incontinence. Our aim was to develop a single, nonionizing, minimally invasive modality to image global pelvic floor anatomy and motion. METHODS: We studied six patients with fecal incontinence and seven patients with obstructed defecation. The anal sphincters were imaged with an endoanal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) coil and endoanal ultrasound (five patients). MR fluoroscopy acquired images every 1.4-2 s, using a modified real-time, T2-weighted, single-shot, fast-spin echo sequence, recording motion as patients squeezed pelvic floor muscles and expelled ultrasound gel; no contrast was added to other pelvic organs. Six patients also had scintigraphic defecography. RESULTS: Endoanal ultrasound and MRI were comparable for imaging defects of the internal and external sphincters. Only MRI revealed puborectalis and/or external sphincter atrophy; four of these patients had fecal incontinence. MR fluoroscopy recorded pelvic floor contraction during squeeze and recorded relaxation during simulated defecation. Corresponding comparisons for angle change and perineal descent during defecation were not significant; only MRI, but not scintigraphy, identified excessive perineal descent in two patients. CONCLUSIONS: Pelvic MRI is a promising single, comprehensive, nonradioactive modality to measure structural and functional pelvic floor disturbances in defecatory disorders. This method may provide insights into mechanisms of normal and disordered pelvic floor function in health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-411
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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