Anal sphincter integrity and function influences outcome in rectovaginal fistula repair

Charles B.S. Tsang, Robert D Madoff, W. Douglas Wong, David A Rothenberger, Charles O. Finne, Daniel Singer, Ann C Lowry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Traumatic sphincter disruption frequently is associated with a rectovaginal fistula, but the effect of a persistent sphincter defect on the outcome of rectovaginal fistula repair is poorly documented. We analyzed the outcome of rectovaginal fistula repairs based on preoperative sphincter status. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We identified 52 women who underwent 62 repairs of simple obstetrical rectovaginal fistulas between 1992 and 1995. Fourteen patients (27 percent) had preoperative endoanal ultrasound studies and 25 (48 percent) had anal manometry studies. Follow-up was by mailed questionnaire in 36 patients (69 percent) and by telephone interview in 12 (23 percent), for a total response rate of 92 percent. Median age was 30.5 (range, 18-70) years, and median follow-up was 15 (range, 0.5-123) months. Twenty-five patients (48 percent) complained of varying degrees of fecal incontinence before surgery. There were 27 endorectal advancement flaps and 35 sphincteroplasties (28 with and 8 without levatoroplasty). RESULTS: Success rates were 41 percent with endorectal advancement flaps and 80 percent with sphincteroplasties (96 percent success with and 33 percent without levatoroplasty; P = 0.0001). Endorectal advancement flap was successful in 50 percent of patients with normal sphincter function but in only 33 percent of patients with abnormal sphincter function(P = not significant). For sphincteroplasties, success rates were 73 vs. 84 percent for normal and abnormal sphincter function, respectively (P = not significant). Results were better after sphincteroplasties vs. endorectal advancement flaps in patients with sphincter defects identified by endoanal ultrasound (88 vs. 33 percent; P = not significant) and by manometry (86 vs. 33 percent; P = not significant). Poor results correlated with prior surgery in patients undergoing endorectal advancement flaps (45 percent vs. 25 percent; P = not significant) but not sphincteroplasties (80 vs. 75 percent; P = not significant). CONCLUSIONS: All patients with rectovaginal fistula should undergo preoperative evaluation for occult sphincter defects by endoanal ultrasound or anal manometry or both procedures. Local tissues are inadequate for endorectal advancement flap repairs in patients with sphincter defects and a history of previous repairs. Patients with clinical or anatomic sphincter defects should be treated by sphincteroplasty with levatoroplasty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1141-1146
Number of pages6
JournalDiseases of the colon and rectum
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 1998


  • Endoanal ultrasound, Anal manometry
  • Endorectal advancement flap
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Levatoroplasty
  • Obstetric injuries
  • Preoperative assessment
  • Rectovaginal fistula
  • Sphincteroplasty


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