Anal Rectal Abscess and Fistula

You will see information about anal abscess and anal fissures together because most fistulas begin as an abscess. An abscess is an infected cavity filled with pus which is found near the anus (the opening of the anal canal) or rectum (the portion of large intestine nearer to the anal canal). The condition occurs from a blockage of the anal glands located just inside the anus.

What are the Symptoms of an  Anal Abscess? (Anorectal Abscess)

Typically, a patient will feel ill, have a fever or chills and will have pain in the rectum or anus.

What Causes an Abscess?

An abscess is an acute infection and certain conditions can make these infections more likely. According to the crypto-glandular theory, abscesses often develop from cryptitis which may be associated with an enlarged papillae in the anal canal. They start as an inflammation, characterized by swelling and redness, which has not yet localized to form an abscess. Then the infecting organisms burrow into the anal glands, producing circumscribed areas of pus in the region of the anus and rectum.

top

What is the Treatment?

Treatment consists of surgically draining pus from the infected cavity and making an opening (incision) in the skin near the anus to relieve pressure. Sometimes a small catheter is left in the incision for several days to assure adequate drainage. In the majority of individuals, a fistula will form after the abscess has been drained.

The procedure can often be done in the doctor’s office using a local anesthetic. A larger or deeper abscess may require hospitalization. For patients that are prone to more serious infections, like diabetes or decreased immunity, a hospital procedure may be necessary.

top

Anal Fistula (Fistula-In-Ano)

Anal Fistula is an abnormal passage (communication) between the interior of the anal canal or rectum and the skin surface. Rarer forms may communicate with the vagina or other pelvic structures, including the bowel.

What Causes a Fistula?

Most fistulas begin as anorectal abscesses. When the abscess opens spontaneously (or has been opened surgically), a fistula may occur. Other causes of fistulas include tuberculosis, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease. Fistulas may occur singly or in multiples.

top

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms are usually a purulent discharge and drainage of pus and/or stool near the anus, which can irritate the outer tissues causing itching and discomfort. Pain occurs when fistulas become blocked and abscesses recur. Flatus (gas) may also escape from the fistulous tract. In general, patients feel poorly and may have fevers.

top

What is the Treatment?

Diagnosis is made with a probe that has been passed between the opening on the skin’s surface and the interior opening. An anal fistula usually lasts until it is surgically removed.

The fistula tract must be opened along with the source of the infection. Usually, tissue around the external opening and the internal opening is removed along with a small margin of tissue lining the tract, called a fistulotomy. Excision of the complete tract is called a fistulectomy.

Laser light applied through a fiber optic strand has been used to core out the fistula tract with minimal damage to surrounding tissue. A cutting seton (usually a silk ligature) is sometimes used on the rationale of eliciting an inflammatory reaction in the tissue surrounding the fistulous tract. Sometimes, fibrin glue (Tisseel) is used at the completion of a fistula repair in the hope of increasing the success rate. Recurrence is frequent, and a success rate of 80% is the best that can be achieved with surgery. Incontinence is associated with a high anal fistula type of surgery and previous fistula surgery.

There is a direct relationship between incontinence and the amount of sphincter muscle divided. The goal of surgical treatment is thus two -fold: to eradicate the discharge permanently and without compromising anal continence.

top

How Long Does it Take to Feel Better?

Treatment of an abscess or fistula will be followed by a period of rest at home. Soaking the affected area in warm water (sitz bath) is recommended three or four times a week. Discomfort can be mild or moderate for the first week and can be treated with pain medication. There should be minimal time lost from school or work.

Choose a Specialist

Fistula surgery is usually straightforward, but complications can arise. That’s why it’s important that you choose a specialist for this type of procedure.  Board certified surgeons who are trained as colon and rectal surgeons, proctologists and gastroenterologists are good choices.

top

Photo References

1. Picture: Fistula – Dr. E. Brender http://home.talkcity.com/SupportSt/drbrender/Butt_Doctor/Anal_Abscess.php