What are anal fistulas and how are they categorized?

Updated: Nov 09, 2018
  • Author: Bruce M Lo, MD, MBA, CPE, RDMS, FACEP, FAAEM, FACHE; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Answer

An anal fistula is an inflammatory tract between the anal canal and the skin. The 4 categories of fistulas, based on the relationship of fistula to sphincter muscles, are intersphincteric, transsphincteric, suprasphincteric, and extrasphincteric. [2]

An anal fistula can be categorized as either simple or complex. A simple anal fistula includes low transsphincteric and intersphincteric fistulas that cross 30% of the external sphincter. Fistulas are complex if the primary track includes high transsphincteric fistulas with or without a high blind tract, suprasphincteric and extrasphincteric fistulas, horseshoe fistulas, multiple tracks, anteriorly lying track in a female patient, and those associated with inflammatory bowel disease, radiation, malignancy, preexisting incontinence, or chronic diarrhea. Note the image below.

Anal fistulas and fissures. This patient reported Anal fistulas and fissures. This patient reported constipation.

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