Cloaca, the most severe degree of imperforate anus: experience with 195 cases

W H Hendren
Annals of Surgery 1998, 228 (3): 331-46

OBJECTIVE: To provide a follow-up of 195 patients with cloacal malformations seen by the author from 1959 to 1998.

SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: Cloaca, which occurs in approximately 1 of 50,000 births, is the most complex type of imperforate anus with confluence of the rectum, vagina, and bladder in a urogenital sinus. Functional results for the bowel, the genital tract, and the urinary tract were formerly poor. Cloacal exstrophy, which is an even more complex spectrum of malformations, was uniformly fatal until 1960. In addition to imperforate anus, these babies have an omphalocele, two exstrophic bladders, between which there is an open cecum, and a blindly ending colon hanging down in the pelvis from the cecum. Although both of these diagnoses contain the word "cloaca," which is Latin for sewer, they are really two separate entities in terms of surgical management. Cloaca and cloacal exstrophy in most cases are very different anatomic problems. However, there are variants that are like a hybrid, which is the rationale for reporting together an experience with both entities.

METHODS: Records were reviewed of 154 patients with cloaca and 41 patients with cloacal exstrophy to assess anorectal function, urinary continence, and sexual function where available.

RESULTS: Follow-up was available in 141 cloaca patients: 82 have spontaneous bowel movements and satisfactory control, 38 use enemas to evacuate, 9 have a colostomy, 7 have fecal soiling, and 5 are too recently operated to evaluate. Regarding urinary control, 83 void spontaneously, 40 catheterize to empty, 4 have urinary diversion, 1 has a continent diversion, 5 patients are wet, and 8 are too recently operated to judge. Twenty-four patients are now adults, 17 of who have experienced coitus and 7 have not. Seven have had babies, all except one by cesarean section. Results of surgery for cloacal exstrophy are not as good, but are encouraging nonetheless for an anomaly that was uniformly fatal before 1960. Of the 41 cloacal exstrophy patients being followed, 7 have not undergone surgery. Fifteen have a colostomy; 19 had pull-through of the colon, but 3 were subsequently reversed for fecal incontinence. Most depend on enemas to evacuate. Urinary dryness was attained in 30 patients, usually by intermittent catheterization of the bladder, which was augmented with small bowel or stomach or both. Only three void voluntarily. Fifteen of the completed long-term patients wear no bag. Only three of the completed patients wear two bags. The rest have one bag.

CONCLUSIONS: Imperforate anus and associated malformations in cloaca and cloacal exstrophy are not hopeless problems. A reasonable lifestyle can be achieved for most of these children with comprehensive surgical planning.

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