What is the pathophysiology of anal fistulas?

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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Most anal fistulas originate in anal crypts, which become infected, with ensuing abscess formation. When the abscess is opened or when it ruptures, a fistula is formed. An anal fistula can have multiple accessory tracts complicating its anatomy.

Other causes of anal fistulas include opened perianal or ischiorectal abscesses, which drain spontaneously through these fistulous tracts. Fistulas are also found in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, particularly Crohn disease. [9] The incidence of fissures in Crohn disease is 30-50%. Perianal activity often parallels abdominal disease activity, but it may occasionally be the primary site of active disease.

Anal fistulas can also be associated with diverticulitis, foreign-body reactions, actinomycosis, chlamydia, lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), syphilis, tuberculosis, [3] radiation exposure, and HIV disease. Approximately 30% of patients with HIV disease develop anorectal abscesses and fistulas.

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