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Anorectal Physiology Laboratory Groningen (APLG)

Problems with defecation or fecal incontinence dramatically hamper quality of life. Unfortunately, there is a great taboo on discussing complaints such as accidental loss of stool or constipation. At the APLG, we perform fundamental, clinical and translational research related to the anorectal (patho)physiology, with a focus on such dysfunctions as constipation and fecal incontinence.

The fundamental research aims to broaden our knowledge of the physiology of the anorectum, and to delineate the mechanisms which regulate anorectal functions such as defecation and fecal continence. Current knowledge does not completely explain how faecal continence and defecation are regulated in healthy people. This impedes the effectiveness of medical treatment. Such fundamental knowledge will facilitate improvements in diagnostics and therapy, and enable the development of effective medical treatment for patients with various anorectal dysfunctions.

The clinical research performed aims to improve the medical treatment of anorectal problems, by looking at the causes underlying dysfunctions. Diagnostic tools currently in use do not take into account the multifaceted nature of anorectal dysfunction. Therefore, patients with theoretically similar symptoms undergo the same treatment, even if different causes underlie their problem. In our clinical research we devote a great deal of attention to identifying the various causes of anorectal disorders. This research is crucial for the improvement and updating of currently applied interventions and for the development of new treatment strategies. 

Our main research  fields of interest are:

  • Defecation/fecal continence related long-term outcomes in patients operated in the region of anorectum (for instance patients with Hirschsprung’s disease or congenital anorectal malformations) and patients with neurological diseases
  • Anorectal (neuro)physiology function in patients
  • Molecular mechanisms regulating function of muscles involved in defecation and fecal continence
  • Risk factors and predictors of fecal problem, and efficacy of different types of treatment

See also: UMCG Anorectaal Functie Centrum (AFC) (information for patients in Dutch)


How our research benefits to society

Our research approaches problems which dramatically hamper the quality of life and which unfortunately still belongs to a great taboo subjects. Approximately 50% of Dutch inhabitants having fecal problems has never discussed their problem with anybody! People do not talk about fecal problems…. until the problem cannot be hidden anymore…

Our group works on different projects:

  • Continence reflexes (Anal External Sphincter Continence Reflex and Puborectal Continence Reflex)
  • Post-operative outcomes of patients operated for anorectal diseases
  • Molecular mechanisms underlying function of  muscles involved in fecal continence and defecation
  • Technological development of diagnosis of fecal problems
  • Prevention of fecal problems 
    • Sanne Verkuijl, PhD
    • Venla den Hollander, PhD
    • Ge Sun, PhD
    • Aia Al-Saida, medical researcher / PhD
    • Niels de Wild, student researcher
    • Maaike ten Hoor, student researcher
    • Steffie Gerristsen, specialised nurse
    • Saskia Drager, specialised nurse


University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)
Department of Surgery
PO Box 30.001
9700 RB Groningen
The Netherlands

Visiting address
University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)
Department of Surgery
Hanzeplein 1
9713 GZ Groningen

See also: AFCG