In a five and one-half year period, 1023 patients with anorectal abscesses and fistulas were treated. Under regional anesthesia the abscesses were unroofed and debrided and a primary fistulotomy was performed whenever a low fistula was identified. In 355 (34.7 per cent) an internal fistulous opening was demonstrated at the time of abscess drainage. Thirty-two patients had suprasphincteric fistulas and underwent two-stage fistulotomy using a seton. Perianal abscesses were encountered in 42.7 per cent of the patients, followed by ischiorectal (22.7 per cent), intersphincteric (21.4 per cent), and supralevator (7.33 per cent). The patients with supralevator and intersphincteric abscesses had a high incidence of fistula identified during abscess drainage. The recurrence rates were 3.7 per cent in the group with abscess drainage only and 1.8 per cent in the group that had primary fistulotomy along with abscess drainage. The follow-up period averaged 36 months. To accomplish adequate drainage and identify the deeper components and associated fistulous opening (34.7 per cent of the entire group), careful examination under regional anesthesia is recommended. Early aggressive treatment of an anorectal abscess and fistula significantly reduces the possibility of recurrent abscesses and/or the need for further surgery.
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