Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons
Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons
                                                   Official journal of the Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons                           
Year : 2005  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 80--85

Assessment of postoperative results in anorectal malformations

V Bhatnagar 
 Department of Pediatric Surgery, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
V Bhatnagar
Department of Pediatric Surgery, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029


Surgery for the correction of anorectal malformations (ARM) is performed by almost all pediatric surgeons. A number of operative procedures are practiced. The posterior sagittal anorectoplasty procedure has found wide acceptability and although it provides the most accurate anatomical reconstruction of the neoanorectum and the sphincters, the results are not in keeping with this technical advantage. In addition, there is no uniformity in describing the results of surgery and hence comparative evaluation of different series is difficult. This review describes the various methods that are available for the assessment of postoperative results following surgery for ARM, with a special emphasis on clinical methods keeping in mind the limitations in various parts of the country. Clinical examination and clinical scoring systems hold an important place in the post-operative evaluation of these patients. Imaging modalities are useful in the diagnosis of misplaced bowel and damage to the muscle complex and are necessary before re-do surgery is planned. Objectivity in the evaluation is provided by anorectal manometry combined with electromyography and these corelate well with clinical scoring systems. A consensus is required for uniformity in the methods of assessment.

How to cite this article:
Bhatnagar V. Assessment of postoperative results in anorectal malformations.J Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg 2005;10:80-85

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Bhatnagar V. Assessment of postoperative results in anorectal malformations. J Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg [serial online] 2005 [cited 2021 Nov 29 ];10:80-85
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The correction of anorectal malformations (ARM) forms a significant part of every pediatric surgeon's practice. These anomalies with an estimated incidence of 1 in 5000 live births and a preponderance in males seem to be fairly well distributed all over the country (although the incidence varies in different areas and some malformations, e.g., the pouch colon appear to be more common in North India).[1]

Over the last half century or more, the treatment of ARM has evolved from a simple cutback/translocation anoplasty to abdominoperineal pull through, sacroperineal pull through, and its modifications to the currently practiced procedure of posterior sagittal anorectoplasty (PSARP). All operative procedures for the correction of ARM aim at providing a portal for the discharge of feces from the perineum and establishing a working relationship between the bowel and sphincter. Although PSARP allows better understanding of the muscular anatomy vis--vis bowel orientation, a significant proportion of patients have postoperative fecal incontinence.[2]

The act of defecation and fecal continence are complex physiological functions depending on a variety of factors including the rectum, internal and external sphincters, pelvic floor muscles, sensory and motor functions, and integrity of neural (both autonomic and somatic) pathways.

The methods employed for the assessment of surgical results have included:

Clinical evaluation and scoring systems;Imaging - magnetic resonance, contrast-enhanced CT, ultrasound, defecography;Pressure/electrical activity - manometry and electromyography (EMG);

 Clinical evaluation

Clinical examination with or without imaging studies is necessary for diagnosing the coexistence of other anomalies - the VATER and VACTERL associations are well known to all pediatric surgeons. Some of the more common and serious associated anomalies are as follows:

Vertebral, sacral 10-25%


Tethered cord, syringomyelia, lipoma 15-40%

Currarino triad

ARM, presacral mass, sacraldefect Rare


TOF, VSD, TGA, hypoplastic, left heart

syndrome 10-25%


TEF, malrotation, atresia-duodenal,

small/large bowel, aganglionosis 10%


VUR, renal agenesis/dysplasia, cryptorchism,

hypospadias, genital anomalies, cloaca 20-60%

Some of these anomalies can be life threatening and need to be treated even before the correction of ARM. Others can seriously affect the quality of life and the ultimate prognosis.[3],[4]

A good clinical examination will also help in detecting genital tract problems, which could lead to postoperative genital, fertility, and sexual problems. In females, almost half the patients may have inadequate genital function due to genital anomalies and vaginal scarring. Also, a high majority may require caesarian section for delivery and may report a worsening of continence during pregnancy or following vaginal delivery.[5],[6] In males, on the other hand, more than half the patients may develop infertility due to ejaculatory duct obstruction, retrograde ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction.[7],[8]

Clinical examination also helps in the evaluation of complications, e.g., wound infections/dehiscence, retraction of neoanus, iatrogenic fistulas, voiding dysfunction, anal stenosis, higher strictures, rectal mucosal prolapse, constipation, psychological disturbances, and incontinence.

Digital examination can assess and predict the level of continence, e.g., a good squeeze pressure on command is associated with good results.[9] In small babies, digital examination may neither be feasible nor desirable due to the narrow caliber of the neoanus. In such situations, it may be more prudent to use the anal dilator, although it may only give information on the caliber of the neoanus. The desirable anal/anorectal caliber with respect to age should be:[10]Hegar's #

1-4 months 12

4-8 months 13

8-12 months 14

1-3 years 15

3-12 years 16

>12 years 17

 Clinical scoring systems

A number of clinical scoring systems are in use currently. For a scoring to be popular, it should be simple, and easy to apply and yet be able to differentiate between subtle grades of continence.

The Kelly's score of continence

This system of scoring awards points for three basic parameters. An overall score of 5-6 is considered good, 3-4 fair, and 0-2 poor.[11] It is by far the simplest of all scoring systems and the easiest to apply even in the office setting.


Normal, no soiling 2

Occasional accidents, feces/flatus escape 1

No control, frequent accidents 0


Always clean 2

Occasional staining 1

Always stained 0


Strong and effective squeeze 2

Weak and partial squeeze 1

No contraction 0

The Pena's criteria for assessment of continence

These criteria do not award points/scores but only classify three grades of continence.[12]

Voluntary bowel movement feels defecation urge, capacity to express the need, and ability to hold bowel movement.


I Occasional, The Templeton score of continence

In this system of scoring, scores are awarded for six parameters, and the scores are classified as good (4-5), fair (2-3.5), and poor (0-1.5).[13]

Toilet training for stool

Successful 1.0

Occasionally successful 0.5

No awareness of impending stool 0


None or rare 1.0

3/week or less 0.5

More than 3/week 0

Extra underpants/liners

Never 1.0

Only when diarrhea 0.5

Always 0

Social problems

None 1.0

Infrequent odor, attends school, no dates, etc. 0.5

Frequent odors affecting school and play 0

Activity restriction

None 0.5

Avoids swimming, sports 0


No current problems 0.5

Some current problems 0

The Holschneider score of continence

This system is a little more detailed than the previous one and gives a score of 10-14 for good, 5-9 for fair, and 0-4 for poor continence.[14]

Frequency of defecation

Normal (1-2/day) 2

Often (3-5/day) 1

Very often 0

Fecal consistency

Normal 2

Loose 1

Liquid 0


No 2

Stress/diarrhea 1

Constant 0

Rectal sensation

Normal 2

Defective 1

Missing 0

Ability to hold back defecation

Minutes 2

Seconds 1

Missing 0

Discrimination between formed loose or gaseous stool

Normal 2

Defective 1

Missing 0

Need for therapy (enemas, drugs, napkins)

No 2

Occasional 1

Always 0

The Rintala score of continence

This scoring system goes into more details and offers a maximum score of 20 but does not classify into good, fair, or poor.[15]

Ability to hold back defecation

Always 3

Problem Fecodynamic studies

Fecoflowmetry and saline enema test help in obtaining clinical indicators for bowel function by assessing the motor activity of the pelvic floor muscle and providing qualitative and quantitative evaluations of the anorectal motor activity.[30],[31] The test is performed by instilling saline in a clean rectum and then measuring the flow and amount of saline passed out in a manner similar to mictiometry.

Urodynamic studies

A number of studies have shown urodynamic abnormalities ranging from dysfunctional voiding to frank urinary incontinence in patients with ARM.[32] The incidence of postoperative urinary incontinence in these patients ranges from 0 to 10% in patients with low ARM, up to 28% in patients with high ARM in the pre-PSARP period and significant reduction in the post-PSARP period (8-10%). Recent studies have shown that a high percentage of preoperative patients with ARM have occult neurovesical dysfunction (small capacity bladder, uninhibited detrusor contractions, poor compliance, etc.) even in the absence of sacral or spinal defects, and changes in capacity, compliance, and detrusor contractions may occur in the postoperative period.[33],[34],[35]

 Plan of management

An algorithm has been suggested for the postoperative assessment of patients with ARM.[36] Following surgery for ARM, all patients should be put through toilet training, and a fecal continence scoring done at 3 years of age. If the score is fair or poor, then the patient should receive dietary management, incentives, pharmacological intervention, and enemas (singly or in combination) till a re-scoring at the age of 5 years. Persistently poor scores should prompt investigations to rule out neurogenic bladder and bowel, sacral/spinal defects, and poor pelvic muscles - in which case the patient should be advised a permanent colostomy. If the investigations suggest a misplaced bowel or other correctable conditions, then an appropriate re-operation should be carried out and the patient reassessed at the age of 10 years.

In conclusion, the aim of postoperative assessment is to categorize the patients into three groups that have different treatment options for the management of postoperative problems:[3]

Group I - these patients have poor anatomy, flat bottom, poor quality muscle, sacral defect, and urinary incontinence. The treatment options for such patients range from biofeedback, antegrade colonic enema, enemas/suppositories, muscle transfer operations, and permanent colostomy.

Group II - these patients have good quality muscle and good quality sacrum but misplaced bowel. The treatment options in these patients are either repositioning the bowel or defattening the pulled through colon.

Group III - in these patients, constipation is the persisting problem. These patients can be managed with enemas, suppositories or anterior resection.


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