Can fecal continence be predicted in patients born with anorectal malformations?

J Pediatr Surg. 2019 Jun;54(6):1159-1163. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2019.02.035. Epub 2019 Mar 1.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify factors associated with attaining fecal continence in children with anorectal malformations (ARM).

Methods: We performed a multi-institutional cohort study of children born with ARM in 2007-2011 who had spinal and sacral imaging. Questions from the Baylor Social Continence Scale were used to assess fecal continence at the age of ≥4 years. Factors present at birth that predicted continence were identified using multivariable logistic regression.

Results: Among 144 ARM patients with a median age of 7 years (IQR 6-8), 58 (40%) were continent. The rate of fecal continence varied by ARM subtype (p = 0.002) with the highest rate of continence in patients with perineal fistula (60%). Spinal anomalies and the lateral sacral ratio were not associated with continence. On multivariable analysis, patients with less severe ARM subtypes (perineal fistula, recto-bulbar fistula, recto-vestibular fistula, no fistula, rectal stenosis) were more likely to be continent (OR = 7.4, p = 0.001).

Conclusion: Type of ARM was the only factor that predicted fecal continence in children with ARM. The high degree of incontinence, even in the least severe subtypes, highlights that predicting fecal continence is difficult at birth and supports the need for long-term follow-up and bowel management programs for children with ARM.

Type of study: Prospective Cohort Study.

Level of evidence: II.

Keywords: Anorectal malformation; Continence; Predictors; Sacral ratio; Spine.

MeSH terms

  • Anorectal Malformations* / complications
  • Anorectal Malformations* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Fecal Incontinence* / epidemiology
  • Fecal Incontinence* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Prospective Studies