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What is an anal fistula?
Anal fistula, an uncommon condition, is a communication or tunnel between the anal canal and the outer skin of the anus. It often drains pus or liquid, which can soil or stain clothing and may irritate the outer tissues or cause discomfort.
How does it occur?
An anal fistula usually results from an injury to the tissue lining the anal canal or an infection in that area. It may occur as a result of:
What are the symptoms?
The first sign of an anal fistula may be anal pain and swelling or abscess followed by persistent discharge or drainage. Symptoms of anal fistula may include:
How is it diagnosed?
Anal fistula is diagnosed by physical examination of the anus and rectum. This may include the following procedures:
How is it treated?
Treatment of anal fistula always requires surgery. The surgical procedure used to correct an anal fistula is called a fistulotomy or cutting the fistula open. In a fistulotomy the doctor cuts open the infected area which allows the fistula to heal. Stitches usually aren't used. It is an outpatient procedure.
Fistulas are usually treated surgically under regional or spinal anesthesia in the operating room. If the fistula is complex and goes through both anal sphincter muscles, a different, more complex procedure may be necessary.
After a fistulotomy, the doctor will prescribe sitz baths and moist dressings to be done 2 or 3 times a day.
How long will the effects last?
Typically, an anal fistula will not heal until it is surgically treated.
What are the risks of surgery?
How can I help prevent an anal fistula?
Follow these guidelines to help prevent an anal fistula. They help to keep the lower gastrointestinal tract healthy.
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L4602 Women's Hospital