What are the treatment options for 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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Answer

Treatment of anal fistulas depends on (1) the location of the fistula, (2) evidence of sepsis or a large abscess, or (3) worrisome findings on physical examination. If an abscess is present, drainage is indicated. Intravenous antibiotics, antipyretics, and analgesics are provided as needed. However, simple rectal abscesses do not typically need antibiotics. [21] If the patient also has sepsis, intravenous fluids or a pressor may be necessary. Depending on the presence of systemic symptoms and the condition of the patient, surgery may be necessary.

For anal fistulas, outpatient follow-up with a surgeon is indicated if consultation did not take place at the time of presentation. Surgical therapy is often indicated for healing of an anal fistula. The surgical approach is dependent on whether the fistula is simple or complex, as well as the risk of complications such as incontinence. A gastroenterologist should be consulted if inflammatory bowel disease is suspected. Asymptomatic anal fistulas from Crohn disease are not managed by surgery. However, if the patient is symptomatic, surgical management should be considered.


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