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01.02.2015 | Original Article | Ausgabe 2/2015

Techniques in Coloproctology 2/2015

Management of complex anorectal fistulas with seton drainage plus partial fistulotomy and subsequent ligation of intersphincteric fistula tract (LIFT)

Techniques in Coloproctology > Ausgabe 2/2015
B. Schulze, Y.-H. Ho



Ligation of intersphincteric fistula tract (LIFT) is a relatively new technique in the treatment of complex anorectal fistulas. As it spares the anal sphincter, rates of post-operative incontinence may be lower when compared to conventional treatment. To date, there have not been enough reports of long-term fistula recurrence rates. We performed a long-term follow-up study of 75 patients who underwent LIFT following seton drainage and partial fistulotomy.


Only patients with complex cryptogenic anorectal fistulas were included. After seton insertion and partial fistulotomy, the tract was reviewed at 4 months for the absence of anorectal sepsis. Patients then underwent LIFT in a day surgery setting. Operative time, complications, recurrences and incontinence were evaluated.


Between May 2008 and June 2013, 75 patients [51 men, mean age 49.5 years, standard error of the mean (SEM) 1.4 years] were treated with a LIFT protocol. The mean operating time for LIFT was 13.2 min (SEM 1.5 min). Complications included minor bleeding, superficial wound dehiscence and perianal pain. At a mean follow-up of 14.6 months (SEM 1.7 months), there were nine (12 %) recurrences, diagnosed at a mean 9.2 months (SEM 2.7 months). They were treated with seton insertion followed by LIFT with biomesh or anorectal advancement flap, and there were no subsequent recurrences. Review of preoperative and post-operative continence scores revealed only one (1.3 %) patient with minor incontinence following LIFT. Recurrences were significantly related to fistulas with multiple tracts (p < 0.001).


Our results suggest that the protocol of seton insertion and partial fistulotomy followed by LIFT is associated with a low recurrence rate comparing well with published results from studies involving other techniques and protocols for treating anal fistula.

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