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High ligation of the anal fistula tract by lateral approach: A prospective cohort study on a modification of the ligation of the intersphincteric fistula tract (LIFT) technique.

BACKGROUND: Ligation of the intersphincteric fistula tract (LIFT) is a sphincter-preserving operation for anal fistulas. Although it has advantages in preserving continence after surgery, it is difficult to perform owing to the narrow field of view. We performed a modified surgical procedure based on the LIFT to overcome these drawbacks.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty-eight patients who were scheduled to undergo high ligation of the anal fistula tract by the lateral approach for the treatment of transsphincteric anal fistulas were prospectively studied. Instead of making a new stab incision on the intersphincteric groove, we dissected along the fistula tract from the external opening until the intersphincteric space appeared. The fistula tract was then ligated close to the internal anal sphincter with absorbable sutures, and the distal part of the ligation was cut off. A cored-out wound was left open for drainage.

RESULTS: The median follow-up was 16 months (range, 8-27 months). Of the 28 patients, 19 (68%) had simple transsphincteric fistulas and 9 (32%) had complex transsphincteric fistulas. Successful fistula closure was achieved in 21 patients (75%), with a median healing time of 4 weeks (range, 3-7 weeks). None of the patients complained of any incontinence symptoms after the procedure. Of the seven patients (25%) who failed to heal successfully, two (7%) did not heal up to 2 months after surgery and five (18%) experienced recurrence after complete healing.

CONCLUSION: High ligation of the anal fistula tract by lateral approach may be a useful sphincter-sparing procedure for transsphincteric anal fistulas.

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