Anal fistula plug vs mucosa advancement flap in complex fistula-in-ano: A meta-analysis

World J Gastrointest Surg. 2012 Nov 27;4(11):256-61. doi: 10.4240/wjgs.v4.i11.256.


Aim: To investigate the efficacy of the anal fistula plug (AFP) compared to the mucosa advancement flap (MAF), considered the best procedure for patients with a complex anal fistula.

Methods: The literature search included PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library and OVID original studies on the topic of AFP compared to MAF for complex fistula-in-ano that had a deadline for publication by April 2011. Randomized controlled trials, controlled clinical trials and prospective cohort studies were included in the review. After information collection, a meta-analysis was performed using data on overall success rates as well as incidence of incontinence and morbidity. The quality of postoperative life was also included with the clinical results.

Results: Six studies involving 408 patients (AFP = 167, MAF = 241) were included in the meta-analysis. The differences in the overall success rates and incidence of fistula recurrence were not statistically significant between the AFP and MAF [risk difference (RD) = -0.12, 95%CI: -0.39 - 0.14; RD = 0.13; 95%CI: -0.18 - 0.43, respectively]. However, for the AFP, the risk of postoperative impaired continence was lower (RD = -0.08, 95%CI: -0.15 - -0.02) as was the incidence of other complications (RD = -0.06, 95%CI: -0.11 - -0.00). The postoperative quality of life, for patients treated using the AFP was superior to that of the MAF patients. Patients treated with the AFP had less persistent pain of a shorter duration and the healing time of the fistula and hospital stay were also reduced.

Conclusion: The AFP is an effective procedure for patients with a complex anal fistula; it has the same success rate but a lower risk of complications than the MAF and may also be associated with an improved postoperative quality of life. Additional evidence is needed to confirm these findings.

Keywords: Anal fistula plug; Complex anal fistula; Meta-analysis; Mucosa advancement flap.