Anal dilatation is still used in the treatment of anal fissure and haemorrhoids. Using anorectal physiology and anal endosonography we have studied 12 men presenting with faecal incontinence following anal dilatation. Resting anal pressures were low, pudendal nerve latencies were normal; 11 men had a disrupted internal anal sphincter and in ten this was extensively fragmented. Three also had defects of the external anal sphincter. These findings demonstrate for the first time the nature of the structural injury which may be caused by anal dilatation.