Original research| Volume 96, ISSUE 12, P2176-2183, December 2015

Cross-Sectional Study of Bowel Symptoms in Adults With Cerebral Palsy: Prevalence and Impact on Quality of Life

Published:August 21, 2015DOI:



      To determine the prevalence and type of bowel symptoms, and their impact on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in adults with cerebral palsy (CP).


      Prospective cross-sectional study.


      Urban, outpatient rehabilitation facility.


      Adults with CP (N=91; 46 men, 45 women; mean age, 36y; age range, 18–79y).


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Participants were interviewed using standardized instruments to assess the frequency and types of bowel dysfunction. The International Consultation of Incontinence Questionnaire–Bowel was used to assess bowel incontinence and impact on quality of life, and constipation presence was determined using the Rome III criteria for constipation. Constipation symptoms were rated by the Patient Assessment of Constipation–Symptom Scale. Participants' mobility status was classified using the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS). Interactions between mobility measures, anthropometric measures, and bowel symptoms were assessed.


      Of the 91 participants enrolled, 62.6% were GMFCS IV or V. Twenty-eight participants (30.8%) reported severe difficulty with control of liquid stool (rating never or rarely); these participants were more likely to have a greater GMFCS level (P=.0004). Twenty-six participants (28.6%) reported that bowel function caused embarrassment some/most/all of the time. Fifty-nine participants (64.8%) met criteria for chronic constipation, which did not differ by GMFCS levels. Overall, 57.1% of participants reported that bowel symptoms interfered with life; 40.7% reported moderate to severe interference.


      Bowel symptoms were frequent, a source of embarrassment, and impacted HRQOL in these adults with CP. Addressing bowel-related symptoms has the potential to improve HRQOL in these adults.


      List of abbreviations:

      BMI (body mass index), CP (cerebral palsy), GI (gastrointestinal), GMFCS (Gross Motor Function Classification System), HRQOL (health-related quality of life), ICIQ-B (International Consultation of Incontinence Questionnaire–Bowel), NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), PAC-SYM (Patient Assessment of Constipation–Symptom Scale)
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