Damaged anal canal as a cause of fecal incontinence after surgical repair for Hirschsprung disease – a preventable and under-reported complication

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Pediatric Surgery








Damaged anal canal; Fecal incontinence; Hirschsprung; Soiling


© 2017 Introduction Fecal incontinence after the surgical repair of Hirschsprung disease is a potentially preventable complication that carries a negative impact on patient's quality of life. Methods Patients that were previously operated for Hirschsprung disease and presented to our bowel management clinic with the complaint of fecal incontinence were retrospectively reviewed. All patients underwent a rectal examination under anesthesia looking for anatomic explanations for their incontinence. Results One hundred three patients were identified. 54 patients had a damaged anal canal. 22 patients also had a patulous anus. The operative reports mentioned the pectinate line in 32 patients, in 12 it was not mentioned, and in 10 patients the operative report was not available. All patients with a damaged anal canal suffered from true fecal incontinence; 45 of them are on daily enemas (41 are clean and 4 are still having “accidents”), 7 are not doing bowel management due to noncompliance and 2 patients have a permanent ileostomy. 49 patients did not have a damaged anal canal, 25 of those responded to changes in diet and medication and are having voluntary bowel movements. Conclusion Fecal incontinence may occur after an operation for Hirschsprung disease. When the anal canal is damaged, incontinence is always present, severe, and probably permanent. The preservation of the anal canal may avoid this complication.

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