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A National Biofeedback Practitioners Service Evaluation: Focus on Chronic Idiopathic Constipation
  1. Kevin Jon Etherson1,
  2. Emma Jane Horrocks2,
  3. S Mark Scott2,
  4. Charles Henry Knowles2,
  5. Yan Yiannakou1
  1. 1Department of Colorectal Surgery, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust & Durham University, Durham, UK
  2. 2Surgical Innovation and GI Physiology Unit, National Centre for Bowel Research, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kevin Jon Etherson, c/o Prof Yiannakou's secretary, Department of Colorectal Surgery, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, North Road, Durham, DH1 5TW, UK; kevinetherson{at}


Introduction Within the UK, there is anecdotal evidence of disparity in the training, practice, supervision and perception of efficacy among practitioners of biofeedback therapy for chronic constipation.

Aims To establish the current knowledge, practice and opinions of UK practitioners.

Methods Between October 2012 and October 2013, a prospective service evaluation was distributed to biofeedback practitioners in the UK through academic conferences or by invitation to complete an on-line assessment form.

Results 76 practitioners responded, consisting of nurses (47%), physiotherapists (35%), physiologists (12%) and others (7%). Only 45% described ‘biofeedback’ consistent with an accepted definition. 86% use equipment to provide sensory feedback. Methods of biofeedback varied: balloon catheter (54%), brace pump technique (78%), urge resistance (83%), irrigation (16%) and relaxation (12%). Only 65% of practitioners had attended formal training courses, and 52% considered themselves to be self-taught. 36% receive formal supervision and only 38% of those by a senior. Regular audit of outcomes is undertaken by 67%. UK-wide perception of treatment response for chronic constipation is markedly variable (mean response=57% (IQR 50–75%, SD 23%)); there were no differences in perception of treatment response between nurses or physiotherapists. Practitioners’ free responses demonstrated strong positive themes of a holistic approach and an overall perception of effectiveness. Negative themes included service restrictions.

Conclusions There is marked variation in practice, training and supervision of biofeedback therapists throughout the UK. Perceptions of efficacy vary greatly. Development of training and supervision standards is a priority as well as a consensus to standardise therapy.


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