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Health Information

Anal Atresia

Definition

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.

Causes

An unborn baby's intestines develop during the fifth to seventh week of pregnancy. A disturbance in this development causes anal atresia. The exact reason for the disturbance isn't clear.

Risk Factors

Anal atresia happens in boys twice as often as girls. It may also occur with other birth defects. The use of steroid inhalers by the mother during pregnancy may be linked to anal atresia.

Symptoms

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
  • Vomiting
  • Tight, swollen stomach

Milder anal atresia may not be apparent until later in life. It may show as a lack of bowel control by age 3.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your baby'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:

Treatment

Talk with your child's doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:

Surgery

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
exh5756b 97870 1 colostomy infant.jpg
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Prevention

There is no known way to prevent anal atresia.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2014 -
  • Update Date: 05/29/2014 -
  • Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics

    http://www.healthychildren.org

  • National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

    http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd

  • About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children

    http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

  • Imperforate anus. Cincinnati Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/i/imperforate-anus/. Updated July 2010. Updated December 2013. Accessed May 29, 2014.

  • Imperforate anus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 13, 2012. Accessed May 29, 2014.

  • Scott, J, Swenson O. Imperforate anus: results in 63 cases and some anatomical considerations. Tufts University Medical School publication website Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1613419&blobtype=pdf. Accessed May 29, 2014.