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A systematic review of the management of anal fistula in infants

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Fistula-in-ano (FIA) in infants differs, in several ways, from FIA in adults. The current review aims to assess FIA in infants less than 2 years old and to illustrate the outcome of different treatment modalities described in the literature.


An organized search of the English literature over the past 25 years was conducted according to the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses guidelines. Electronic databases and Google Scholar were searched for articles focusing on management of FIA in infants.


Fourteen studies were eligible for this review. Variables analyzed comprised patient characteristics, type of FIA, methods of treatment, recurrence, and postoperative complications. The studies included comprised total of 490 infants, 89 % of them less than 1 year old. Most patients (97.5 %) were males with a median age of 7 months. Around 20 % of patients with FIA underwent conservative treatment initially, and 73 % of them achieved complete resolution. Surgery was performed on 86 % of the infants. Fistulotomy accounted for 65 % of the procedures performed and was associated with a higher recurrence rate than fistulectomy (6.6 vs. 1.1 %, respectively). Complications of surgical management occurred in 2.6 % of the patients. FIA typically occurs in male infants, mainly under 1 year of age. Almost all fistulae in this age group are low.


The majority of the studies reviewed evaluated surgical treatment of FIA. However, the few studies that employed conservative treatment reported complete resolution of FIA in most infants. Fistulotomy was the most commonly performed surgery for FIA and was associated with fewer complications, yet a higher recurrence rate than fistulectomy.

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Emile, S.H., Elfeki, H. & Abdelnaby, M. A systematic review of the management of anal fistula in infants. Tech Coloproctol 20, 735–744 (2016).

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