Biofeedback interventions for gastrointestinal conditions: A systematic review

Ian D. Coulter, Joya T. Favreau, Mary L. Hardy, Sally C. Morton, Elizabeth A. Roth, Paul Shekelle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective • To review evidence for the efficacy of biofeedback in the treatment of gastrointestinal problems. Data Sources • Studies were identified through a search of MEDLINE, HealthSTAR, EMBASE, Allied and Complementary Medicine, MANTIS, PsycINFO, Social Science Citation Index, Science Citation Index, and CINAHL. Study Selection • Studies were selected if they used biofeedback as the intervention, addressed the treatment of a gastrointestinal condition, and included a control group. Data Extraction • All titles (4397), articles, and/or abstracts (1362) were evaluated by 2 independent reviewers who extracted data on study design and quality, sample size, type of intervention, and outcomes. Data Synthesis • We found 16 controlled trials of biofeedback for gastrointestinal problems. Ten studies had a comparison group that did not receive biofeedback (5 studies on constipation and/or encopresis, 3 on fecal incontinence, 1 on constipation, and 1 on abdominal pain). Of the 10 studies that had a "no biofeedback" control arm, 7 provided sufficient data to calculate an effect size. Of these 7 studies, 2 favored biofeedback: 1 study revealed a reduction in fecal incontinence among adults, and the other study showed an improvement in constipation with fecal incontinence (encopresis) among children. The other 5 had nonsignificant results. Three studies had a "no biofeedback" comparison arm but insufficient data to calculate an effect size. One of these studies in adult fecal incontinence reported statistically significant improvement. Conclusions • The evidence is insufficient to support the efficacy of biofeedback for these gastrointestinal conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-83
Number of pages8
JournalAlternative therapies in health and medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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