Digestion & Digestive Health - Imperforate Anus (anal atresia)

Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment of Imperforate Anus

An imperforate anus or anal atresia is a birth defect in which is characheterized by malformed rectum or the absence of a normal anal opening. The anus is the opening to the rectum through which stools leave the body. The diagnosis is usually made shortly after birth by a routine physical examination. Imperforate anus occurs in about 1 in 5000 births and its cause is unknown.


Following symptoms may indicate this condition:

  • Anal opening very near the vaginal opening in girls
  • Missing or misplaced opening to the anus
  • No passage of first stool within 24 - 48 hours after birth
  • Stool passes out of the vagina, base of penis, scrotum, or urethra
  • Swollen belly area


A doctor can diagnose this condition during a physical examination. Imaging tests may be recommended.


The infant should be checked for other problems, especially those affecting the genitals, urinary tract, and spine. Surgical reconstruction of the anus is needed. If the rectum connects with other organs, repair of these organs will also be necessary. A temporary colostomy is often required.


With treatment, the outcome is usually good. However, it depends on the exact problem. Some infants may never develop adequate bowel control.

Possible Complications•Bowel incontinence
•Intestinal blockage

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