Aim: Anismus causes obstructed defecation as a result of inappropriate contraction of the puborectalis/external sphincter. Proctographic failure to empty after 30 s is used as a simple surrogate for simultaneous electromyography/proctography. Botulinum toxin is theoretically attractive but efficacy is variable. We aimed to evaluate the efficacy of botulinum toxin to treat obstructed defecation caused by anismus.
Method: Botulinum toxin was administered, under local anaesthetic, into the puborectalis/external sphincter of patients with proctographic anismus. Responders (resolution followed by recurrence of obstructed defecation over a 1- to 2-month period) underwent repeat injection. Nonresponders underwent rectal examination under anaesthetic (EUA). EUA-diagnosed rectal prolapse was graded using the Oxford Prolapse Grade 1-5.
Results: Fifty-six patients were treated with botulinum toxin. Twenty-two (39%) responded initially and 21/22 (95%) underwent repeat treatment. At a median follow up of 19.2 (range, 7.0-30.4) months, 20/21 (95%) had a sustained response and required no further treatment. Isolated obstructed defecation symptoms (OR = 7.8, P = 0.008), but not proctographic or physiological factors, predicted response on logistic regression analysis. In 33 (97%) of 34 nonresponders, significant abnormalities were demonstrated at EUA: 31 (94%) had a grade 3-5 rectal prolapse, one had internal anal sphincter myopathy and one had a fissure. Exclusion of these alternative diagnoses revised the initial response rate to 96%.
Conclusion: Simple proctographic criteria overdiagnose anismus and underdiagnose rectal prolapse. This explains the published variable response to botulinum toxin. Failure to respond should prompt EUA seeking undiagnosed rectal prolapse. A response to an initial dose of botulinum toxin might be considered a more reliable diagnosis of anismus than proctography.
© 2011 The Authors. Colorectal Disease © 2011 The Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland.