(Imperforate Anus; Anorectal Malfunction)
Anal atresia is a condition that a baby is born with. It is a problem with the development of the anus and the part of the intestine leading to the anus. Anal atresia can make it difficult or impossible for the child to pass stool. The specific problems can vary but may include:
- Anal opening is too narrow or in the wrong place
- Membrane covers the anal opening
- Intestines are not connected to the anus
- An abnormal connection between the intestines and urinary systems, allowing stool to pass through the urinary system
Most of the time, anal atresia can be corrected.
An unborn baby's intestines develop during weeks 5-7 of pregnancy. A disturbance in this development causes anal atresia. The exact reason for the disturbance isn't clear.
Anal atresia is more common in boys. It is also more common in those with disorders, such as Down syndrome and congenital abnormalities.
If your baby has anal atresia, symptoms may include:
- No anal opening present at birth
- Anal opening in the wrong location
- No stool within 24-48 hours after birth
- Stool being excreted through the vagina, penis, scrotum, or urethra
- Tight, swollen abdomen
Milder anal atresia may not be apparent until later in life. It may show as a lack of bowel control by age 3.
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Images may be taken of your baby's bodily structures. This can be done with:
Talk with your child's doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:
Surgery may be an option to correct the anal atresia. The exact surgery will depend on the defects that are present. Options include:
- Surgery to connect the anus and intestine
- Anoplasty to move the anus to the correct location
- Colostomy to attach a part of the intestine to an opening in the wall of the abdomen to allow waste to pass into a bag outside of the body
Temporary Colostomy of an Infant
There are no current guidelines to prevent anal atresia.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Imperforate anus. Cincinnati Children's website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/i/imperforate-anus. Updated July 2010. Updated December 2013. Accessed June 3, 2016.
Gangopadhyay A, Pandey V. Anorectal malformations. J Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg. 2015 Jan-Mar;20(1):10-15. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4268748/. Accessed June 3, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.