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Subcutaneous fissurotomy: a novel procedure for chronic fissure-in-ano. a review of 109 cases.

PURPOSE: The constant presence of a narrow subcutaneous tract extending caudad to chronic fissures-in-ano is reported. The efficacy of surgically unroofing this tract (subcutaneous fissurotomy) without sphincterotomy was evaluated.

METHODS: By using a narrow-gauge, hooked probe, a constant, midline subcutaneous tract was identified extending from the caudad aspect of chronic anal fissures. These tracts are present within the sentinel tag, when present, and extend up to 1 cm caudad to the fissure in the subcutaneous plane. A proximal connection with the dentate line in the submucous plane also was identified. Surgically unroofing the tract (subcutaneous fissurotomy) resulted in significant widening of the distal anal canal, rendering internal sphincterotomy unnecessary. A 32-month prospective evaluation of this new technique was performed. Inclusion criteria included patients with chronic anal fissures that had failed conservative therapy, including topical agents. In each case, the tract was identified and surgically laid open along its entire length. No internal sphincterotomy was performed in any patient. Postoperatively, patients were instructed to apply topical 10 percent metronidazole t.i.d. The need for repeat surgery and/or subsequent internal sphincterotomy was recorded.

RESULTS: A total of 109 patients were enrolled during the study period. Median follow-up was 12 months. During the study period, two patients (1.8 percent) required repeat surgery for persistent symptoms at 3 and 12 months postoperatively. No change in continence was reported in any patient.

CONCLUSIONS: Laying open the subcutaneous tract has a very high success rate and a low incidence of repeat surgery. This finding introduces a new debate relating to the etiology of fissure-in-ano and makes routine internal sphincterotomy unnecessary.

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