Neurogenic bowel Factsheet


Neurogenic bowel is a condition where a child cannot control their poo and gas due to brain, spinal cord or nerve issues.

The bowel is the lower part of the digestive system. It is made up of:

  • the small intestine – the passage between the stomach and the small intestine that absorbs nutrients from food
  • the colon – part of the large intestine, removes water, nutrients, and electrolytes from digested food
  • the rectum – the end part of the large intestine that sends a signal to the brain that there is poo, and hold it until your child goes to the toilet
  • the anus – the muscular opening at the end of the digestive system, where poo leaves the body. 

Nerves and muscles along the bowel send signals to the brain that a poo is coming and to hold it until your child can go to the toilet.

This is called defecating or doing a poo.

The brain, spinal cord and nerves can have trouble sending messages to the bowel when there has been damage caused by:

  • disability
  • health conditions and illnesses
  • physical injuries.

 Signs and symptoms

If your child has a neurogenic bowel, they may show signs like:

  • frequent constipation – hard poos that are difficult to pass
  • frequent diarrhea – loose poos that are difficult to control
  • not being able to feel when the bowel is full of poo
  • not being able to empty the bowel properly
  • leaking or doing frequent poos during the day
  • frequent infection or blockage in the bowel
  • nausea, vomiting and stomach ache.

Neurogenic bowel is common in conditions and illnesses like:

  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • spina bifida
  • spinal cord injury.

If your child is having trouble controlling their bowel or has had sudden changes to their bowel control, see your local doctor as soon as possible.


Your child will be referred to a specialist doctor called a gastroenterologist, who can diagnose the neurogenic bowel. Your child may also see a brain and spinal cord specialist called a neurologist.

Neurogenic bowel can be diagnosed through:

  • scans and x-rays of the digestive system and bowel
  • scans and x-rays of the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord
  • tests that check how the muscles and nerves in the bowel are working
  • tests that check your child’s poo.


Neurogenic bowel is caused by brain, spinal cord, or nerve damage. It is a permanent condition and cannot be cured. 

Treatment of neurogenic bowel focuses on: 

  • managing your child’s bowel control
  • managing infection and hygiene
  • keeping the bowel healthy
  • teaching your child to manage their bowel control independently in the community.
Last updated Wednesday 6th March 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024