WellSpan Home

Anal Fissures: Internal Anal Sphincterotomy

Topic Overview

Surgery may be needed if medicine fails to heal a tear (fissure) in the anus. The preferred procedure is an internal anal sphincterotomy. A doctor makes a small incision in the internal anal sphincter, one of two muscles that control the anus. This can be done as outpatient surgery under local anesthesia or general anesthesia.

The internal anal sphincter is always under tension, also known as resting pressure. If that pressure becomes too high, a fissure may form or an existing one may not heal. The incision reduces the resting pressure, allowing the fissure to heal.

It's important to understand that, even with surgery, an anal fissure must heal on its own. A sphincterotomy involves operating on the sphincter muscles, not closing the actual fissure.

Internal anal sphincterotomy has a better success rate than any medicine that is used to treat long-term anal fissures. The results last longer, and fewer people have anal fissures come back after surgery than after treatment with medicine.footnote 1

In some studies, a greater number of people who had internal anal sphincterotomy had some inability to control gas or stool (incontinence) after surgery compared to people treated with medicine. Despite these results, satisfaction with this surgery is high. And a review of many studies showed that the risk of incontinence was 8%. This means that about 8 out of 100 people who had the surgery had some problem with incontinence. But this rate was not very different from the rates seen in people who were treated with medicine for their chronic anal fissures.footnote 2

Another study showed that internal anal sphincterotomy was better than nitroglycerin cream at healing chronic anal fissures. And there was no difference in long-term continence between the people who used nitroglycerin cream and the people who had surgery.footnote 3

If you are deciding whether to have this surgery, it is important that you consider the chance of incontinence. In some cases, the risk of incontinence is too great to justify doing internal anal sphincterotomy. This may be true for women who develop a fissure while giving birth, because they typically don't have a high resting pressure in their internal sphincter. A procedure called anal advancement flap may be done instead of sphincterotomy. In this procedure, the edges of the fissure are removed, and healthy tissue is sewn over the area.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Nelson RL (2014). Anal fissure (chronic). BMJ Clinical Evidence. http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/systematic-review/0407/overview.html. Accessed January 8, 2015.
  2. Nelson R (2006). Non-surgical therapy for anal fissure. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).
  3. Brown CJ, et al. (2007). Lateral internal sphincterotomy is superior to topical nitroglycerin for healing chronic anal fissure and does not compromise long-term fecal continence: Six-year follow-up of a multicenter, randomized, controlled trial. Diseases of the Colon and Rectum, 50(4): 442-448.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerC. Dale Mercer, MD, FRCSC, FACS - General Surgery

Current as ofMay 5, 2017


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×