Treatment of benign anal disease with topical nitroglycerin

S R Gorfine
Diseases of the Colon and Rectum 1995, 38 (5): 453-6; discussion 456-7

PURPOSE: Fissure-in-ano and acutely thrombosed external hemorrhoids are common, benign anal conditions, usually characterized by severe anal pain. Internal anal sphincter hypertonia appears to play a role in the etiology of this pain. Nitric oxide has recently been identified as the "novel biologic messenger" that mediates the anorectal inhibitory reflex in humans. This report documents a therapeutic role for nitroglycerin, a nitric oxide donor, in the treatment of acutely thrombosed external hemorrhoids and anal fissure.

METHODS: Five patients with thrombosed external hemorrhoids and fifteen patients with anal fissure or ulcer were identified. A treatment regimen that included 0.5 percent nitroglycerin ointment applied topically to the anus was instituted. After one week of therapy, all patients were re-examined and questioned regarding pain relief and side effects of treatment. Fissure patients were followed for eight weeks or until healing occurred.

RESULTS: All patients reported dramatic relief of anal pain following application of nitroglycerin. Pain relief lasted from two to six hours. Complete healing of fissures occurred within two weeks in ten patients and within one month in two patients. One patient, whose fissure had not healed completely within two weeks requested surgical sphincterotomy. Two patients remained with persistent anal ulcers despite two months of therapy. Both, however, were pain-free. Side effects were limited to transient headache in 7 of 20 patients.

CONCLUSION: Topically applied nitroglycerin ointment appears to have a therapeutic role in the treatment of thrombosed external hemorrhoids and anal fissure.

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