Innervation asymmetry of the external anal sphincter in aging characterized from high-density intra-rectal surface EMG recordings

Nicholas Dias, Xuhong Li, Chuan Zhang, Yingchun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Aims: The innervation zone asymmetry of the external anal sphincter (EAS) has been investigated as a risk factor for the development of fecal incontinence (FI). This study aims to utilize an intra-rectal high-density surface electromyogram (HD-sEMG) recording and advanced HD-sEMG decomposition technique to characterize the effects of aging on the asymmetry of EAS functional innervation. Methods: HD-sEMG signals were recorded intra-rectally from six healthy young and seven healthy elderly women during voluntary contractions of the EAS. EMG signals were decomposed into constituent motor unit action potentials (MUAPs) and the innervation zone of each decomposed motor unit was identified. Asymmetry index (AI) was defined and calculated for all subjects. The maximum squeezing pressures of the EAS were also measured for all subjects as a comparison. Results: The HD-sEMG decomposition and AI calculation were successfully performed from EMG data acquired from all the subjects. The AI values were 28.7 ± 17.0% for the young group and 55.6 ± 18.8% for the elderly group. The AI and EAS contraction strength were found to be negatively correlated (P < 0.05). A two-tailed student's t-test demonstrated a significant increase in AI with age by comparison between two groups (P < 0.05). Conclusions: Our work demonstrates, for the first time, that EAS functional innervation tends to become increasingly asymmetrical with advancing age, and this increase is associated with a compromised anorectal function. Results suggest that the intra-rectal HD-sEMG will serve as an advanced tool for assessing and monitoring the anorectal neuromuscular function minimally invasively under different pathophysiological conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2544-2550
Number of pages7
JournalNeurourology and Urodynamics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • aging
  • asymmetry
  • external anal sphincter
  • high-density surface EMG
  • innervation zone
  • intra-rectal EMG

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Urology


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