Whether you call the condition fecal incontinence or accidental bowel leakage, it still boils down to the same thing – the unintentional loss of stool, due to a damaged or weakened anal sphincter muscle. While non-invasive approaches such as physical therapy can work, sometimes the only course of action is to perform a colostomy. That said, Torax Medical has developed another option, in the form of its FENIX Continence Restoration System. The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida recently became the first US clinic to implant the device.
According to Torax, fecal incontinence affects about 30 million people in the US and Europe alone – many of those are women, whose anal nerves and muscles were injured when they were giving birth. Needless to say, the condition can be quite debilitating, not to mention potentially embarrassing.
The FENIX device takes the form of a string of titanium beads with magnetic cores. In a surgical procedure that takes approximately 45 minutes, that string is fastened around the anal canal, like a bracelet. The healing process takes four to six weeks.
In default mode, magnetic attraction draws the beads together, essentially closing off the canal and keeping stools from unexpectedly coming out. Once sufficient abdominal pressure is intentionally applied by the patient, however, stools are able to temporarily push the beads apart and get through.
The Mayo Clinic implanted the device in four patients back in April, although it just made the announcement this week. Approximately 35 patients have already received the FENIX in Europe, with about 90 percent of them reporting an improvement of at least 50 percent in stool loss.