Comparison between recent sphincter-sparing procedures for complex anal fistulas-ligation of intersphincteric tract vs transanal opening of intersphincteric space

World J Gastrointest Surg. 2022 May 27;14(5):374-382. doi: 10.4240/wjgs.v14.i5.374.


Complex anal fistulas are difficult to treat. The main reasons for this are a higher recurrence rate and the risk of disrupting the continence mechanism because of sphincter involvement. Due to this, several sphincter-sparing procedures have been developed in the last two decades. Though moderately successful in simple fistulas (50%-75% healing rate), the healing rates in complex fistulas for most of these procedures has been dismal. Only two procedures, ligation of intersphincteric fistula tract and transanal opening of intersphincteric space have been shown to have good success rates in complex fistulas (60%-95%). Both of these procedures preserve continence while achieving high success rates. In this opinion review, I shall outline the history, compare the pros and cons, indications and contraindications and future application of both these procedures for the management of complex anal fistulas.

Keywords: Anal fistula; Fistulotomy; Incontinence; Ligation of intersphincteric fistula tract; Recurrence; Transanal opening of intersphincteric space.

Publication types

  • Review