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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Fistulotomy and drainage of deep postanal space abscess in the treatment of posterior horseshoe fistula

Resit Inceoglu1 and Rasim Gencosmanoglu2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Surgery, Marmara University School of Medicine, Istanbul, Turkey

2 Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Marmara University Institute of Gastroenterology, Istanbul, Turkey

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BMC Surgery 2003, 3:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-3-10

Published: 26 November 2003



Posterior horseshoe fistula with deep postanal space abscess is a complex disease. Most patients have a history of anorectal abscess drainage or surgery for fistula-in-ano.


Twenty-five patients who underwent surgery for posterior horseshoe fistula with deep postanal space abscess were analyzed retrospectively with respect to age, gender, previous surgery for fistula-in-ano, number of external openings, diagnostic studies, concordance between preoperative studies and operative findings for the extent of disease, operating time, healing time, complications, and recurrence.


There were 22 (88%) men and 3 (12%) women with a median age of 37 (range, 25–58) years. The median duration of disease was 13 (range, 3–96) months. There was one external opening in 12 (48%) patients, 2 in 8 (32%), 3 in 4 (16%), and 4 in 1 (4%). Preoperative diagnosis of horseshoe fistula was made by contrast fistulography in 4 (16%) patients, by ultrasound in 3 (12%), by magnetic resonance imaging in 6 (24%), and by physical examination only in the remainder (48%). The mean ± SD operating time was 47 ± 10 min. The mean ± SD healing time was 12 ± 3 weeks. Three of the 25 patients (12%) had diabetes mellitus type II. Nineteen (76%) patients had undergone previous surgery for fistula-in-ano, while five (20%) had only perianal abscess drainage. Neither morbidity nor mortality developed. All patients were followed up for a median of 35 (range, 6–78) months and no recurrence was observed.


Fistulotomy of the tracts along the arms of horseshoe fistula and drainage of the deep postanal space abscess with posterior midline incision that severs both the lower edge of the internal sphincter and the subcutaneous external sphincter and divides the superficial external sphincter into halves gives excellent results with no recurrence. When it is necessary, severing the halves of the superficial external sphincter unilaterally or even bilaterally in the same session does not result in anal incontinence. Close follow-up of patients until the wounds completely healed is essential in the prevention of premature wound closure and recurrence.