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Anal Atresia

(Imperforate Anus; Anorectal Malfunction)

Pronounced: AY-nal ah-TRE-zhuh

Definition

Anal atresia is a condition that a baby is born with. It is a problem with the development of the anus and the part of the intestine leading to the anus. Anal atresia can make it difficult or impossible for the child to pass stool. The specific problems can vary but may include:

  • Anal opening is too narrow or in the wrong place
  • Membrane covers the anal opening
  • Intestines are not connected to the anus
  • An abnormal connection between the intestines and urinary systems, allowing stool to pass through the urinary system

Most of the time, anal atresia can be corrected.

Causes    TOP

An unborn baby's intestines develop during weeks 5-7 of pregnancy. A disturbance in this development causes anal atresia. The exact reason for the disturbance isn't clear.

Risk Factors    TOP

Anal atresia is more common in boys. It is also more common in those with disorders, such as Down syndrome and congenital abnormalities.

Symptoms    TOP

If your baby has anal atresia, symptoms may include:

  • No anal opening present at birth
  • Anal opening in the wrong location
  • No stool within 24-48 hours after birth
  • Stool being excreted through the vagina, penis, scrotum, or urethra
  • Vomiting
  • Tight, swollen abdomen

Milder anal atresia may not be apparent until later in life. It may show as a lack of bowel control by age 3.

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your baby's bodily structures. This can be done with:

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your child's doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:

Surgery

Surgery may be an option to correct the anal atresia. The exact surgery will depend on the defects that are present. Options include:

  • Surgery to connect the anus and intestine
  • Anoplasty to move the anus to the correct location
  • Colostomy to attach a part of the intestine to an opening in the wall of the abdomen to allow waste to pass into a bag outside of the body

Temporary Colostomy of an Infant

exh5756b_97870_1_colostomy infant.jpg
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent anal atresia.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
http://www.healthychildren.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

References:

Imperforate anus. Cincinnati Children's website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 2010. Updated December 2013. Accessed June 3, 2016.
Gangopadhyay A, Pandey V. Anorectal malformations. J Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg. 2015 Jan-Mar;20(1):10-15. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 3, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 5/29/2014

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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