Purpose: Proctalgia fugax (PF) is a benign anorectal condition which has been described in the literature since the nineteenth century commonly presenting to general surgeons. There is little high level evidence on the subject and its therapeutic modalities. We aimed through this systematic literature review to outline the definition and diagnostic criteria of this condition, the aetiology and differential diagnoses and describe the different treatment modalities that have been attempted and their success.
Method: A literature search of Google Scholar and Medline using Pubmed as the search engine was used to identify all studies directly related to the definition, aetiology and treatment options for this condition (latest at 12 August 2008) was performed.
Results: The search produced 61 references with three others obtained from the references of these papers. The prevalence of PF in the general population ranges from 4% to 18%. The diagnosis is based on the presence of characteristic symptoms as defined by Rome III guidelines and physical examination. The mainstay of treatment is reassurance and careful counselling with evidence in the literature for warm baths, topical treatment with glyceryl trinitrate or diltiazem and salbutamol inhalation. In persistent cases, local anaesthetic blocks, clonidine or Botox injections can be considered after clarification of risk and benefit.
Conclusion: Based on this we suggest that diagnosis should be made through exclusion of common organic causes such as haemorrhoids, anal fissure or anorectal carcinoma and on the fulfillment of Rome III criteria. The main treatment for this benign condition remains reassurance and topical treatment.