• Article

Biofeedback interventions for gastrointestinal conditions: A systematic review

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


Coulter, ID., Favreau, JT., Hardy, ML., Morton, S., Roth, EA., & Shekelle, P. (2002). Biofeedback interventions for gastrointestinal conditions: A systematic review. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 8(3), 76-83.