Imperforate anus is a defect that is present from birth (congenital). The opening to the anus is missing or blocked. The anus is the opening to the rectum through which stools leave the body.
Anorectal malformation; Anal atresia
Imperforate anus may occur in several forms:
It is caused by abnormal development of the fetus. Many forms of imperforate anus occur with other birth defects.
Symptoms of the problem may include:
A health care provider can diagnose this condition during a physical exam. Imaging tests may be recommended.
The infant should be checked for other problems, such as abnormalities of the genitals, urinary tract, and spine.
Surgery to correct the defect is needed. If the rectum connects with other organs, these organs will also need to be repaired. A temporary colostomy (connecting the end of the large intestine to the abdomen wall so that stool can be collected in a bag) is often needed.
Most defects can successfully be corrected with surgery. Most children with mild defects do very well. However, constipation can be a problem.
Children who have more complex surgeries still have control over their bowel movements most of the time. However, they often need to follow a bowel program. This includes eating high-fiber foods, taking stool softeners, and sometimes using enemas.
Some children may need more surgery.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
This problem is often found when the newborn infant is first examined. Call your provider if a child treated for imperforate anus has abdominal pain or fails to develop any bowel control by the age of 3.
There is no known prevention. Parents with a family history of this defect may seek genetic counseling.
Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF. Surgical conditions of the anus and rectum. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 344.
Levitt MA, Pena A. Imperforate anus and cloacal malformations. In: Holcomb GW, Murphy JP, Ostlie DJ, eds. Ashcrafts's Pediatric Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 35.
Review Date: 5/14/2017
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.