Surgical management of cryptoglandular fistulas is a challenge because the consequences of anal surgery potentially include fecal incontinence and impaired quality of life.
To assess factors associated with fecal incontinence after surgery for simple and complex cryptoglandular fistulas and to determine the impact of incontinence on quality of life.
The design is retrospective and cross-sectional.
This study was conducted at an academic tertiary center and at a private center specializing in proctologic surgery.
All patients who underwent preoperative endoanal ultrasound for cryptoglandular fistula between 2002 and 2012.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:
A questionnaire was sent out in October 2013 to evaluate incontinence (Wexner-score) and its impact on quality of life (FIQL). Variables tested for association were patient demographics, fistula type, number of incised abscesses (0, 1, >1), number of fistulotomies (0, 1, >1) and number of sphincter-sparing procedures (0, 1, >1).
Of the 141 patients participating, 116 (82%; 76 men, 40 women) returned all the questionnaires. Median follow-up from the first perianal fistula surgery was 7.8 years (range, 2.1–18.1 years). Thirty-nine patients (34%) experienced incontinence. Surgical fistulotomy, multiple abscess drainages and a high transsphincteric or suprasphincteric fistula tract were associated with incontinence. As compared to simple fistula (Wexner score, 1.2 [SD, 2.1]), incontinence was worse after surgery for complex fistula (Wexner score, 4.7 [SD, 6.2], p = 0.001), as were quality of life elements, including lifestyle (p = 0.030), depression (p = 0.077) and embarrassment (p < 0.001).
Mainly retrospective design without a standardized treatment protocol.
Surgical fistulotomy is the strongest risk factor for fecal incontinence. The severity of incontinence increases with the complexity of the fistula, negatively influencing quality of life. Special attention should be paid to these patients so as to mitigate symptoms later in life. A shift to sphincter-sparing procedures appears warranted.