Background:

Guidelines fail to recommend objective measures to assist with treatment of neurogenic bowel dysfunction (NBD) in spinal cord injury (SCI).

Objectives:

The main objective was to review the literature to identify the objective measures used in all NBD populations and to present their results and any correlations performed to validated subjective measures.

Methods:

A systematic review of the literature was performed in accordance with PRISMA (2020) guidelines, including all records from January 2012 to May 2023 with MeSH terms like “neurogenic bowel” indexed in the following databases: PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, Cochrane Central Trials Register, and ClinicalTrials.gov. Abstracts were excluded if they did not include objective measures or if they only mentioned the esophagus, stomach, and/or small bowel. Records were screened independently by at least two collaborators, and differences were resolved by unanimous agreement.

Results:

There were 1290 records identified pertaining to NBD. After duplicates were removed, the remaining records were screened for a total of 49 records. Forty-one records (82%) included subjective measures. Two-thirds of the articles involved the population with SCI/disease (n = 552) and one-third were non-SCI NBD (n = 476). Objective measures were categorized as (1) transit time, (2) anorectal physiology testing, and (3) miscellaneous. Of the 38 articles presenting results, only 16 (42%) performed correlations of objective measures to subjective measures.

Conclusion:

There is an abundance of literature supporting the use of objective outcome measures for NBD in SCI. Strong correlations of subjective measures to objective outcome measures were generally lacking, supporting the need to use both measures to help with NBD management.

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