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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > New pelvic floor clinic to end years of discomfort

New pelvic floor clinic to end years of discomfort

Posted on Tuesday 26th November 2013

Mr Fraser Smith, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon

Consultant Colorectal Surgeons, Mr Fraser McLean Smith and Ms Lynn Stevenson have now opened the first fully integrated Pelvic Floor Assessment Clinic in the North West at the Cumberland Infirmary.

The clinic is designed to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ to diagnose and instigate treatment for both men and women with conditions including faecal incontinence, intractable constipation and rectal prolapse amongst others. It has access to the latest specialist diagnostic and imaging technology and a full multidisciplinary team. In addition to the team of two consultant colorectal surgeons, the clinic it also has clinical input from urologists, gynaecologists, specialist physiotherapists and nurses.

It is hoped that when people realise that there is help available and that often very simple and non-surgical means can quickly and easily make their symptoms better, that more people will come forward for assessment and treatment that could end years’ of discomfort and improve quality of life.

When asked what he found rewarding about instigating this service Mr Smith said “It is terrible that for many years people have thought that their incontinence and other problems were part of growing old or giving birth and they just had to put up with the pain, discomfort and often embarrassment that they caused”. “Many of the people that we see have to plan any journey or social event by knowing where public toilets are located and must constantly carry a change of clothes with them in fear of publically soiling themselves. Very often we can help these people and they do not have to suffer in silence.”

“Some of treatments have very high success rates, but in every case we help people to help themselves and manage their situation after they have been properly diagnosed and assessed.”

The clinic can undertake a number of assessment procedures with specialist equipment including ultrasound scanning, anorectal physiology and manometry. A business case is currently being prepared to also provide sacral nerve stimulation. This is an implantable ‘bowel pacemaker’ device that can have dramatic effects on controlling faecal incontinence in some patients which is currently unavailable in this region. In general, treatment starts without surgery and involves modification of the stool consistency, visualising the bowel lining and providing exercises to bowel habit retraining also known as biofeedback. 

Ms Stevenson believes in allowing new patients good time to describe their symptoms and for him to describe the tests and treatment options which is why all clinic appointments are planned to last longer than the average NHS outpatient clinic.

“We appreciate that these symptoms can be extremely embarrassing for people and often they will not have told anyone else, even close family, about them. For us, this is our job and we are not embarrassed. At the clinic we listen to patients and get them to describe fully their daily experiences and difficulties,” she said.  It is important they can share their experience, embarrassment and sometimes despair. There is much that can be done to help correct these conditions and there is no need for anyone to suffer in silence.”