Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 211-220

First online:

Treatment of perianal fistula and abscess: Crohn’s and non-Crohn’s

  • Houssam E. Mardini
  • , David A. SchwartzAffiliated withInflammatory Bowel Disease Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center Email author 

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Opinion statement

The management of perianal abscesses and fistulas is relatively straightforward in most cases and based on a sound knowledge of the anatomy of the anorectum and adherence to established medical and surgical principles. Asymptomatic fistulas should not be treated, whereas abscesses require surgical drainage under general anesthesia. Fistula treatment includes drainage of any associated sepsis and eradication of the fistula track to prevent recurrence while preserving sphincter integrity. A small percentage of anal abscesses and fistulas are complex and very challenging to manage, particularly in conditions such as rectovaginal fistulas and abscesses and/or fistulas complicating Crohn’s disease. Treatment strategies in these situations rely on an accurate clinical assessment of the degree of rectal inflammation and perianal pathology. Treatment should combine aggressive medical therapy (antibiotics, immunomodulators, and anti-tumor necrosis factor antibody treatment) and minimal surgical interventions. Patients with proctitis have a significantly lower healing rate and a significantly higher complication rate with aggressive surgical interventions.