What is an anal fistula?
Anal fistula is a thin tunnel that develops within the anal glands and drains through an external opening in the anal canal. Sometimes anal glands can become blocked, which causes an abscess to develop. The abscess can then grow to the surface of the anal skin, thus forming the tract known as an anal fistula.
Causes of anal fistula
There are many types of anal fistula that are classified based on their location within the sphincter muscles. Some digestive diseases or conditions contribute to the development of anal fistulae. These include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Diverticular abscesses
- Abscesses in the appendix
Symptoms of anal fistula
Symptoms of an anal fistula include:
- Drainage of pus
- Bloody pus
- Bad odor originating from the anus
- Potential for systemic infection if stool passes through the anal fistula
Treatment of anal fistula
Diagnosing an anal fistula involves an outpatient procedure called an anoscopy. During the anoscopy, a physician determines where the fistulous tract begins and ends.
Surgery can address drainage of pus from the anal fistula and help prevent infection. Draining an anal fistula can be quite painful, so some patients may elect a procedure that repairs the fistula. Fistulectomy, however, is a surgery that is used to fully remove a fistulous tract. To improve healing after a fistulectomy, patients must rest, soak in warm baths three times each day, and change gauze frequently to keep the area clean.
More about the fistulectomy
Fistulectomy is said to be more effective than a fistulotomy, which merely opens the fistula tract for healing. Because a fistulectomy completely removes the fistula tract, the recovery can be a considerable amount of time and increase the risk for complications. Recovery from a fistulectomy can take anywhere from four to six weeks.
The fistulectomy procedure is usually done under general anesthesia at a hospital. Patients typically can return home after the procedure as long as complications do not occur.
Possible risks or complications of the fistulectomy include:
- Post-operative pain
- Recurrence of fistula
If you would like to learn more about fistulectomy, call us to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.