Objective: Our aim was to retrospectively analyze the Mayo Clinic experience of descending perineum syndrome from 1987-1997. Methods: Clinical records were abstracted for demographic features, risk factors, results of anorectal and defecation tests, and a mailed questionnaire evaluated outcome and current symptoms. Results: All results are mean ± SD. Clinically, 39 patients (38 women, one man), mean age 53 ± 14 yr, presented with constipation (97%), incomplete rectal evacuation (92%), excessive straining (97%), digital rectal evacuation (38%), and fecal incontinence (15%). Laboratory tests showed anal sphincter resting pressure was 54 ± 26 mm Hg, and squeeze pressure was 96 ± 35 mm Hg; expulsion from the rectum of a 50- ml balloon required > 200 g added weight in 27%; perineal descent was 4.4 ± 1 cm (normal < 4 cm) by scintigraphy. Scintigraphic evacuation, rectoanal angle change during defecation, and perineal descent were abnormal in 23%, 57%, and 78% of the patients, respectively. Associated features included female gender (96%), multiparity with vaginal delivery (55%), hysterectomy or cystocele/rectocele repair (74%). On follow-up, 64% responded; 17 of these 25 responders underwent pelvic floor retraining. At 2-yr median follow-up (range, 1-6 yr), 12 still experienced constipation or excessive straining; their perineal descent was greater than in patients who responded to retraining (p = 0.005). Conclusions: Descending perineum syndrome is identifiable by clinical history and examination, and the most prevalent abnormality on testing is perineal descent > 4 cm; rectal balloon expulsion is an insensitive screening test for descending perineum syndrome. Pelvic floor retraining is a suboptimal treatment for this chronic disorder of rectal evacuation; the extent of perineal descent appears to be a useful predictor of response to retraining.
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