Imperforate anus is a defect that is present from birth (congenital) in which the opening to the anus is missing or blocked. The anus is the opening to the rectum through which stools leave the body.
Anorectal malformation; Anal atresia
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Imperforate anus may occur in several forms.
- The rectum may end in a blind pouch that does not connect with the colon.
- The rectum may have openings to the urethra, bladder, base of the penis or scrotum in boys, or vagina in girls.
- There may be narrowing (stenosis) of the anus or no anus.
The problem is caused by abnormal development of the fetus. Many forms of imperforate anus occur with other birth defects. It occurs in about 1 out of 5,000 infants.
- Anal opening very near the vagina opening in girls
- Baby does not pass first stool within 24 - 48 hours after birth
- Missing or moved opening to the anus
- Stool passes out of the vagina, base of penis, scrotum, or urethra
- Swollen belly area
Signs and tests
A doctor can diagnose this condition during a physical exam. Imaging tests may be recommended.
The infant should be checked for other problems, especially those affecting the genitals, urinary tract, and spine.
Surgery to correct the defect is needed. If the rectum connects with other organs, these organs will also need to be repaired. A temporary colostomy (connecting the end of the large intestine to the abdomen wall so that stool can be collected in a bag) is often needed.
Most defects can successfully be corrected with surgery. Most children with mild defects do very well. However, constipation can be a problem.
Children who have more complex surgeries still usually have control over their bowel movements. However, they often need to follow a bowel program, which includes eating high-fiber foods, taking stool softeners, and sometimes using enemas.
Some children may need more surgery.
Calling your health care provider
This disorder is usually discovered when the newborn infant is first examined. Call your health care provider if a child that was treated for imperforate anus has abdominal pain or fails to develop any bowel control by the age of 3.
As with most birth defects, there is no known prevention.
Warner BW. Pediatric surgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 71.
Klein MD, Thomas RP. Surgical conditions of the rectum, anus, and colon. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 341.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. ©1997-2014 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
The Lowdown on Low-Residue Diets
Diagnosed With Lactose Intolerance? Tips to Cope
Could Gut Bacteria Cause Your IBS?
Apple Cider Vinegar: Is It a Super Tonic?
Runner's Diarrhea: Why It Happens, How to Avoid It
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Hotter Temperatures Linked To Kidney Stones
- 2. Summer Bug Bites: What to Look For
- 3. Skin Health Advice with Dr. Kenneth Beer
- 4. Summer Safety Tips That Every Parent Needs To Know
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.