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Balloon Sphincterography

What is a balloon sphincterography?

A balloon sphincterography, also referred to as simply sphincterography, is an X-ray used to evaluate voluntary muscle strength and relaxation within the anal sphincter.

Why is a balloon sphincterography performed?

When a person experiences fecal incontinence, an examination needs to determine how two sets of muscles constrict, and then relax. The anal sphincter controls the movement of muscles in the anal canal, and the puborectalis muscle controls the movement of muscles in the lower rectum (close to where stools are expelled from the anus).

A sphincterography allows your physician to see the shape of these structures in order to determine if they are working correctly.

How is a balloon sphincterography performed?

A sphincterography uses a flexible balloon connected to a bag of liquid barium. The pressure inside the balloon is equal to the height of the barium bag above the balloon. The higher the bag, the higher the balloon pressure.

The person lies on his/her left side and a deflated balloon is inserted into the anal canal and rectum. Barium fills the balloon. X-rays are taken while the person squeezes, relaxes, and pushes. These X-rays tell how strong the sphincter is, and if it relaxes properly.

How do I prepare for a sphincterography?

Your doctor will give you specific instructions to prepare for this examination including refraining from eating or drinking anything prior to the procedure. There is usually no pain associated with this procedure, although pressures exerted by the inflation of the balloon may cause some discomfort. Consult your physician for additional information.