Colostomy in anorectal malformations: A procedure with serious but preventable complications

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Pediatric Surgery








Anorectal malformation; Colostomy; Complication; Imperforate anus


Purpose: Colostomy for patients with anorectal malformations decompresses an obstructed colon, avoids fecal contamination of the urinary tract, and protects a future perineal operation. The procedure is associated with several significant complications. Materials and Methods: The medical records of 1700 cases of anorectal malformations were retrospectively reviewed. A total of 230 patients underwent reconstruction without a colostomy. Of the remaining 1470 patients, 1420 had their colostomy performed at another institution (group A) and 50 did at our institution (group B) using a specific technique with separated stomas in the descending colon. Results: There were 616 complications identified in 464 patients of group A and in 4 patients in group B, an incidence of 33% vs 8% (P < .01). Complications in group A were classified into several groups. The first group was mislocation (282 cases), including 116 with stomas too close to each other, 97 with stomas located too distally in the rectosigmoid (which interfered with the pull-through), 30 with inverted stomas, 21 with stomas too far apart from each other, and 18 with right upper sigmoidostomies. The second largest group was prolapse (119 cases), which occurred mainly in mobile portions of the colon. The third group was composed of general surgical complications after colostomy closure (82 cases), such as intestinal obstruction (47 cases), wound infection (13 cases), incisional hernia (11 cases), anastomotic dehiscence (7 cases), sepsis (3 cases), and bleeding (1 case). Two of the septic patients died. Another group included 62 patients who received a Hartmann's procedure, which we considered to be contraindicated in anorectal malformations. A total of 42 patients suffered from stenosis of the stoma; 29, from retraction. Conclusions: Most colostomy complications are preventable using separated stomas in the descending colon. Mislocated stomas lead to problems with appliance application, interference with the pull-through, megasigmoid, distal fecal impaction, and urinary tract infections. Loop colostomies lead to urinary tract infections, distal fecal impaction, and prolapse. Prolapse is a potentially dangerous complication that mostly occurs when the stoma is placed in a mobile portion of the colon. Recognizing this makes the complication preventable by trying to create colostomies in fixed portions of the colon or by fixing the bowel to the abdominal wall when necessary. The trend to avoid colostomies is justified; however, colostomy is the best way to prevent complications in anorectal surgery and, when indicated, should be done with a meticulous technique following strict rules to avoid complications.

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