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Anal Fistula Surgery

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Why would I need anal fistula surgery?

An anal fistula usually forms after an infectious abscess in the area near the anus. When the infection has cleared, it can leave behind a fistula that needs to be repaired with surgery as it’s unlikely to get better on its own.

What symptoms does anal fistula surgery address?

An anal fistula usually causes the following symptoms:

  • Blood or pus discharge near the back passage
  • Constant discomfort in the anal area
  • Irritated, swollen, hot and/or red skin around the anus
  • Discharge from the back passage
  • A high temperature (indicating an infection)

Anal fistula surgery aims to correct an anal fistula and treat all of its associated symptoms.

When should you speak to your specialist about anal fistula surgery?

If you have any of the above symptoms or you’re concerned about having an anal infection, abscess or fistula, speak to your specialist.

How is anal fistula surgery performed?

There are multiple surgical techniques to treat an anal fistula. Two common treatments are the fistulotomy and insertion of Seton suture techniques. Both are performed under a general anaesthetic and can require an overnight stay in hospital after surgery. Your surgeon will discuss your best course of treatment, or they may need to decide which one is best once you’re asleep and they’ve examined the extent of your fistula.

A fistulotomy involves your surgeon making a cut along the entire length of the fistula to open it up so that it heals flat against the skin.

The Seton technique involves your surgeon placing a soft, non-absorbable surgical thread into the fistula to help it drain away any pus. After 8 to 12 weeks, you will need further surgery to close the fistula. This is usually performed if your fistula affects a larger proportion of the anal sphincter (the ring of muscle that helps to prevent incontinence).

Examples of more advanced techniques to close an anal fistula are the mucosal advancement flap procedure and the Ligation of Intersphincteric Fistula Tract (LIFT) procedure.

What is the recovery like for anal fistula surgery?

Your recovery from anal fistula surgery will depend on multiple factors, including your age, fitness level and the nature of your procedure.

You will experience some discomfort after your surgery that should be managed by painkillers. You will also experience some bleeding. Both should clear up in the first few days but full recovery usually takes around six to eight weeks. Sometimes the wound created by the surgery needs regular dressing changes in the community.

Your surgical team will give you advice on how long you may need to take off work and when you may expect to get back to your normal activities. They may also give you laxatives to help you have easier bowel movements as you heal.

Are there any risks/complications associated with anal fistula surgery?

As with any medical procedure, it’s possible for risks or complications to arise. Speaking with your specialist or surgeon beforehand will help you avoid any adverse reactions.

Anal fistula surgery has a relatively low risk of serious complications, but the following events can occur in a small number of cases:

  • Infection
  • Altered continence to stool and wind

How can I prepare for anal fistula surgery?

Prior to anal fistula surgery, your surgeon will discuss with you how best to prepare for the procedure, as each patient is different.

Common preparations for anal fistula surgery include:

  • Routine blood tests, x rays or scans as requested by your surgeon
  • Taking steps to stop smoking if you smoke
  • Losing weight if you’re overweight
  • Remaining active and doing regular exercise

Are there alternatives for anal fistula surgery?

An anal fistula doesn’t usually heal without surgery, so your doctor is likely to recommend an operation if you have an anal fistula.

Call 020 7467 4344 or fill in your details below to make an enquiry
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