Cloacal malformations: lessons learned from 490 cases

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Seminars in Pediatric Surgery








Anorectal malformation; Cloaca; Urogenital mobilization; Vaginal replacement


In this review we describe lessons learned from the authors' series of patients born with the most complex of congenital anorectal problems, cloacal malformations, with the hope to convey the improved understanding and surgical treatment of the condition's wide spectrum of complexity learned from patients cared for over the last 25 years. This includes a series of 490 patients, 397 of whom underwent primary operations, and 93 who underwent reoperations after attempted repairs at other institutions. With regard to the newborn, we have learned that the clinician must make an accurate neonatal diagnosis, drain a hydrocolpos when present, and create an adequate, totally diverting colostomy, leaving enough distal colon available for the pull-through, and a vaginal replacement if needed. A correct diagnosis will avoid repairing only the rectal component. For the definitive reconstruction, all patients in the series were managed with a posterior sagittal approach; 184 of whom also required a laparotomy. The average length of the common channel was 4.6 cm for patients who required a laparotomy and 2.5 cm for those who did not. Hydrocolpos was present in 139 patients (30%). Vaginal reconstruction involved a vaginal pull-through in 308 patients, a vaginal flap in 44, vaginal switch in 48, and vaginal replacement in 90 (33 with rectum, 15 with colon, and 42 with small bowel). A total of 220 underwent total urogenital mobilization, which was first introduced in 1996. Complications included rectal prolapse in 26, vaginal stricture or atresia in 18, urethrovaginal fistula in 13, and urethral atresia in 6. A total of 53% of all cases have voluntary bowel movements. The others are kept clean with a mechanical daily emptying (an enema) as part of a bowel management program. Indications for reoperations included persistent urogenital sinus after initial repair in 39 patients. Fifty-one had problems such as rectal prolapse, stricture, retraction, dehiscence or atresia, 29 had a mislocated rectum, 34 had vaginal stricture, retraction, dehiscence, atresia, or stenosis, 16 had urethrovaginal or rectovaginal fistulae, and 5 had urethral stricture or atresia. The series was divided into 2 distinct groups of patients where common channel measurement was known (n = 400): group A were those with a common channel <3.0 cm (n = 225, 56%) and group B had a common channel >3 cm (n = 175, 44%). The separation into these 2 groups has important therapeutic and prognostic implications. Patients in Group A can be repaired posterior sagittally with a reproducible operation. Because they represent most patients, most well-trained pediatric surgeons should be able to repair these types of malformations, and the prognosis is good. Patients in Group B (those with a common channel >3 cm), usually require a laparotomy, have a much higher incidence of associated urological problems, and often require special maneuvers for vaginal reconstruction. Surgeons who repair Group B malformations require special training in urology; the operations are prolonged and technically demanding, and the functional results are not as good as in group A. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

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