Anorectal physiology tests

assess the strength and function of the anal sphincter muscles

Assessment procedures using specialist equipment to diagnose a variety of bowel related conditions

What are anorectal tests?

Anorectal physiology tests look at the strength of the muscles in your anal canal to see if they are functioning as they should.

They also check the sensitivity of your rectum to small volumes of air and its response to abdominal distension (an enlargement or 'ballooning' effect).

Need to know

  • What happens during the tests? icon plus

    Your consultant will perform a rectal examination to check that your rectum is empty and you are able to push and squeeze when requested during the test.

    A catheter (small tube) is then placed into your rectum and a tool used to withdraw the catheter at a steady rate, measuring the strength of your muscles as the catheter is withdrawn. This will need to be repeated several times - sometimes with you relaxed and sometimes squeezing your anal muscles. A small balloon is then attached to the end of the catheter and placed into your rectum. Small bursts of air are pumped into the balloon. You will be asked to describe your sensations as this is done.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Your consultant will tell you how best to prepare for these tests.
  • After your test icon plus

    You'll be able to return home on the same day following your tests. You'll have a follow-up meeting with your consultant to discuss the results.

    Treatment options may involve surgery but more often it involves bowel habit retraining. This is also known as biofeedback. This non-invasive treatment involves retraining muscles to relax or the strengthening of muscle tone in your back passage and pelvic floor, depending on your symptoms. The programme usually lasts around six months.

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From complex bowel surgery to diagnostic tests and minor procedures, we provide exceptional colorectal care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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