There is still no clear consensus about surgical treatment of anal fistulas. Fistulotomy or fistulectomy and primary sphincter reconstruction is still regarded with skepticism. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence in the literature supporting the use of this technique in the treatment of complex anal fistulas. MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Library databases were searched for the period between 1985 and 2015. The studies selected were peer-reviewed articles, with no limitations concerning the study cohort size, length of the follow-up or language. Technical notes, commentaries, letters and meeting abstracts were excluded. The major endpoints were the technique adopted, clinical efficacy, changes at anorectal manometry and assessment of quality of life after the procedure. Fourteen reports (666 patients) satisfied the inclusion criteria. The quality of the studies was low. Some differences about the surgical technique emerged; however, after a weighted average duration of follow-up of 28.9 months, the overall success rate was 93.2 %, with a low morbidity rate. The overall postoperative worsening continence rate was 12.4 % (mainly post-defecation soiling). In almost all cases, the anorectal manometry parameters remained unchanged. The quality of life, when evaluated, improved significantly. Fistulotomy or fistulectomy and primary sphincteroplasty could be a therapeutic option for complex anal fistula. Success rates were very high and the risk of postoperative fecal incontinence was lower than after simple fistulotomy. Well-designed trials are needed to support the inclusion of this technique in a treatment algorithm for the management of complex anal fistulas.
- anal fistula