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Anorectal Biofeedback

» Summary» Procedure Codes
» Description» Selected References
» Prior Approval» Policy History
» Policy

Medical Policy: 02.01.04 
Original Effective Date: July 2001 
Reviewed: August 2015 
Revised: August 2015 

Benefit Application
Benefit determinations are based on the applicable contract language in effect at the time the services were rendered. Exclusions, limitations or exceptions may apply. Benefits may vary based on contract, and individual member benefits must be verified. Wellmark determines medical necessity only if the benefit exists and no contract exclusions are applicable. This medical policy may not apply to FEP. Benefits are determined by the Federal Employee Program.

This Medical Policy document describes the status of medical technology at the time the document was developed. Since that time, new technology may have emerged or new medical literature may have been published. This Medical Policy will be reviewed regularly and be updated as scientific and medical literature becomes available.


Anorectal biofeedback is a treatment program that utilizes neuromuscular conditioning techniques to treat patients with fecal incontinence or chronic constipation that is associated with dyssynergic defecation.  Dyssynergic defecation, also known as anismus or pelvic floor dyssynergia, is characterized by failure of the abdominal, rectal, pelvic floor and anal sphincter muscles to coordinate and complete the act of defecation.  It is characterized by impaired propulsion of stool from the rectum, paradoxical anal contraction, or inadequate anal relaxation, or a combination of these mechanisms.


Biofeedback is not a treatment, per se, but a tool to help patients learn how to perform muscle exercise training.


Appropriate candidates for receiving biofeedback therapy (neuromuscular training) are:

A. Patients who have a diagnosis of dyssynergic defecation.
B. Patients who have tried standard approaches for treatment of constipation including OTC laxatives, dietary changes, and exercises and failed these approaches for at least three months.
C. They must fulfill the symptomatic criteria for dyssynergic defecation.
D. They must fulfill the objective physiologic criteria for dyssynergic defecation described.

Diagnostic criteria for dyssynegric defecation: Patients must fulfill both criteria A and criteria B as defined below.

A. Patients must fulfill the symptomatic criteria for functional constipation as defined by ROME III criteria, which states that patients must report two or more of the following symptoms for at least 3 months with a symptom onset of at least 6 months duration.

1. Straining during at least 25% defecations.
2. Lumpy or hard stools with at least 25% defecations.
3. Sensation of incomplete evacuation following at least 25% decations.
4. Sensation of anorectal obstruction or blockage during at least 25% defecations.
5. Manual maneuvers to facilitate bowel movements with at least 25% defecations (digital evacuation, etc.)
6. Fewer than three bowel movements per week.

B. Constipated patients must fulfill two or more of the following objective physiological criteria during repeated attempts to defecate.

1. Dyssnergic pattern of defecation that comprises of either inappropriate contraction of the pelvic floor muscles (anal sphincter of puborectalis) or less than 20% relaxation of basal resting sphincter pressure.
2. Inadequate propulsive forces as assessed by manometry or imaging or EMG.
3. Inability to expel a 50 ml water-filled balloon or a stool-like device such as fecom within 1 minute.
4. A prolonged colonic transit time (more than 6 markers on a plain abdominal radiograph taken 120 hours after ingestion of one Stizmarks® capsule containing 24 radio opaque markers or using other technology such as nuclear scintigraphy or SmartPill® colonic transit study.)
5. Inability to expel barium paste or greater than 50% retention of barium past during defecography.

Anorectal biofeedback is an instrument-based learning technique wherein an instrument such as a manometry probe is placed inside the body to provide visual or auditory information to the patient regarding their anorectal muscle function.  When mechanical, anatomic, and disease- and diet-related causes of constipation have been ruled out, clinical suspicion should be raised to the possibility that PFD (pelvic floor dysfunction) or dyssynergia is causing or contributing to constipation. Based on the principle of operant conditioning, biofeedback helps patients modify bowel habits by restoring defecation, which normally entails propulsive forces coordinated with relaxation.


Biofeedback therapy is a process based on operant conditioning techniques and the governing principle is that any behavior - whether complex or simple - is reinforced. It can be performed either by placing a manometry probe with multiple micro-transducers and a balloon or a water perfused probe with multiple side holes into the rectum. This in turn provides either visual or auditory display of muscle activity.  The patient and the therapist use this information to learn how to control and improve anorectal function.  In addition to office biofeedback training, portable units are also available to facilitate home training.


The treatment consists of advice and instruction during an initial visit regarding bowel habits, exercise, laxatives, dietary fiber and fluid intake and timed toilet training.  In addition to receiving the instruction, subjects have an initial training session by a specialist generally followed by biweekly, 1-hour biofeedback sessions, up to a maximum of 6 therapy sessions during a period of 3 months during the active phase.  A follow up phase typically consists of reinforcement at 6 weeks and 3, 6, and 12 months.


Currently the study of biofeedback use in children with dyssynergic type defecation is lacking. There is a lack of clinical trials or randomized studies involving biofeedback in the use of children.


In 2013, the American Gastroenterological Association updated their position statement on constipation. The following statement on biofeedback was included: “Pelvic floor retraining by biofeedback therapy rather than laxatives is recommended for defecatory disorders (Strong Recommendation, High-Quality Evidence).”


In May 2010, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence issued a guideline on constipation in children and young people. The guideline states that biofeedback should not be used for ongoing treatment. In June 2007, they issued a guideline on fecal incontinence in adults which states the following regarding biofeedback: “The evidence we found did not show biofeedback to be more effective than standard care, exercises alone, or other conservative therapies. The limited number of studies and the small number of participants in each group of the studies make it difficult to come to any definitive conclusion about its effectiveness.”


Several methodologic difficulties exist in assessing biofeedback. For example, most interventions that include biofeedback are multimodal and include relaxation and behavioral instruction, which may have effects separate from those that may occur due to biofeedback. While studies may report a beneficial effect of multimodality treatment, without appropriate control conditions, it is impossible to isolate the specific contribution of biofeedback to the overall treatment effect. For example, relaxation, attention, or suggestion may account for the successful results that have been attributed to biofeedback.


Prior Approval: 


Not applicable



Anorectal biofeedback may be considered medically necessary for documented dyssynergic defecation in adults:

  • Per the Rome III criteria as documented above
  • After 3 months of conservative treatment, including possible laxatives, dietary changes, and exercises

The recommended treatment course for those with dyssynergic defecation is biofeedback sessions over 3 months. This is consistent with the protocol used in randomized trials showing benefit of biofeedback.


Anorectal biofeedback is considered investigational in children.


Anorectal biofeedback is considered investigational in the home setting.


Anorectal biofeedback is considered investigational for fecal incontinence when the cause is not dyssynergic defecation.


For the treatment of fecal incontinence, systematic reviews have not found that biofeedback provides additional benefit when offered in conjunction with conventional therapy, compared with conventional therapy alone.


Anorectal biofeedback is considered investigational for any condition not listed above including but not limited to:

  • urinary incontinence
  • fecal incontinence
  • irritable bowel syndrome

See related policy number 02.01.05


Procedure Codes and Billing Guidelines: 

  • To report provider services, use appropriate CPT* codes, Modifiers Alpha Numeric (HCPCS level 2) codes, Revenue codes, and/or diagnosis codes.
  • 90911 biofeedback training, perineal muscles, anorectal or urethral sphincter, including EMG or manometry.


Selected References: 

  • Ko, C.Y., Tong, J., Lehman, R.E., Selton, A.A., Schrock, T.R., Welton, M.L. Biofeedback is effective therapy for fecal incontinence and constipation. Archives of Surgery 1997; 132: 829-834. 
  • Chiotakakou-Faliakou, E., Kamm, M.A., Roy, A.J., Storrie, J.B., Turner, I.C. Biofeedback provides long term benefit for patients with intractable, slow and normal transit constipation. Gut 1998; 42: 517-521.
  • McKee, R.F., McEnroe, L., Anderson, J.H., Finlay, I.G. Identification of patients likely to benefit from biofeedback for outlet obstruction constipation. British Journal of Surgery 1999; 86: 355-359. 
  • Gilliland, R., Hyemen, S., Altomare, D.F., Park, U.C., Vickers, D., Wexner, S.D. Outcome and predictors of success of biofeedback for constipation. British Journal of Surgery 1997; 84: 1123-1126.
  • Rao, S.S.C. The technical aspects of biofeedback therapy for defecation disorder. The Gastroenterologist 1998; 6:96-103.
  • ECRI. Biofeedback for the Treatment of Constipation in Children.  Plymouth Meeting (PA): ECRI Health Technology Assessment Information ServiceExternal Site; 1998 October 19 p. (Windows on medical technology; Issue No. 10).
  •  National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Guideline 49: Faecal incontinence: the management of faecal incontinence in adults. . 2007.
  • ECRI. Biofeedback for the Treatment of Fecal Incontinence. Plymouth Meeting (PA):  ECRI Health Technology Assessment Information ServiceExternal Site; 1998 October 18 p. (Windows on medical technology; Issue No. 11). 
  • Dailianas, A., Skandlis, N., Rimikis, M.N., Koutsomanis, D., Kardasi, M., Archimandritis, A. Pelvic floor study in patients with obstructive defecation. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 2000; 30(2):176-180.
  • McKee, R.F., McEnroe, L., Anderson, J.H., Finlay, I.G. Identification of patients likely to benefit from biofeedback for outlet obstruction constipation. British Journal of Surgery 1999;86:355-359.
  • AHRQ 01-E030. Mind-Body Interventions, Gastrointestinal Conditions. Evidence Report/ Technology Assessment No. 40. Evidence Report. July 2001. 
  • Solomon MJ, Pager CK, Rex J, Roberts R, Manning J. Randomized, controlled trial of biofeedback with anal manometry, transanal ultrasound, or pelvic floor retraining with digital guidance alone in the treatment of mild to moderate fecal incontinence.  Dis Colon Rectum.  2003 Jun;46(6):703-10.
  • Norton C, Chelvanayagam S, Wilson-Barnett J, Redfern S, Kamm MA   Randomized controlled trial of biofeedback for fecal incontinence.  Gastroenterology.  2003 Nov;125(5):1320-9.
  • Ilnyckyj A, Fachnie E, Tougas G.  A randomized-controlled trial comparing an educational intervention alone vs education and biofeedback in the management of faecal incontinence in women.  Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2005 Feb;17(1):58-63.
  • Brazzelli M, Griffiths P. Behavioural and cognitive interventions with or without other treatments for the management of faecal incontinence in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006 19; (2):CD002240. Abstract viewed on-line.
  • Rao SS, Seaton K, et al.  Randomized controlled trial of biofeedback, sham feedback, and standard therapy for dyssynergic defecation.  Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007 Mar;5(3):331-8.
  • Rao SS. Biofeedback therapy for constipation in adults. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2011 Feb; 25(1):159-66.
  • Schey R, Cromwell J, Rao SS. Medical and surgical management of pelvic floor disorders affecting defecation. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Nov;107(11):1624-33.
  • Brazzelli M, Griffiths PV, Cody JD, Tappin D. Behavioural and cognitive interventions with or without other treatments for the management of faecal incontinence in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Dec 7;(12):CD002240.
  • Hart SL, Lee JW, Berian J, et al. A randomized controlled trial of anorectal biofeedback for constipation. Int J Colorectal Dis. 2012 Apr;27(4):459-66. 
  • American Gastroenterological Association. American Gastroenterological Association medical position statement on constipation. Available online at: National Guideline ClearinghouseExternal Site.
  •  National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Guideline 99: Constipation in children and young peopleExternal Site. 2010.
  •  National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Guideline 49: Faecal incontinence: the management of faecal incontinence in adults. . 2007.
  • EEG Education and Research Inc. Neurofeedback. 2014. Accessed Sept 5, 2014. Therapeutic UsesExternal Site
  • National Coverage Determination (NCD) for Biofeedback TherapyExternal Site (30.1)


Policy History: 

August 2015 - Annual Review, Policy Revised

September 2014 - Annual Review, Policy Revised

April 2014 - Annual Review, Policy Revised

October 2013 - Annual Review, Policy Revised

December 2012 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed

December 2011 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed

December 2010 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed


Wellmark medical policies address the complex issue of technology assessment of new and emerging treatments, devices, drugs, etc.   They are developed to assist in administering plan benefits and constitute neither offers of coverage nor medical advice. Wellmark medical policies contain only a partial, general description of plan or program benefits and do not constitute a contract. Wellmark does not provide health care services and, therefore, cannot guarantee any results or outcomes. Participating providers are independent contractors in private practice and are neither employees nor agents of Wellmark or its affiliates. Treating providers are solely responsible for medical advice and treatment of members. Our medical policies may be updated and therefore are subject to change without notice.

*Current Procedural Terminology © 2012 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Information
New information or technology that would be relevant for Wellmark to consider when this policy is next reviewed may be submitted to:
  Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  Medical Policy Analyst
  P.O. Box 9232
  Des Moines, IA 50306-9232
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