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BACKGROUND: It was the aim of this prospective study to analyze both the feasibility and preliminary results of video-assisted anal fistula treatment (VAAFT) combined with advancement flap repair for complex fistulas in Crohn’s disease. METHODS: All patients with perianal Crohn’s disease suffering from complex fistulas who underwent definitive surgery using VAAFT combined with advancement flap repair were prospectively enrolled in the study. Only complex fistulas with concurrent stable disease and without any evidence of severe inflammatory activity or perianal sepsis were treated using the VAAFT technique. Patients with Crohn’s proctitis or prior proctectomy were not candidates for the procedure. VAAFT was performed by using the VAAFT equipment (Karl Storz, Tuttlingen, Germany). Key steps included visualization of the fistula tract and/or side tracts using the fistuloscope and correct localization of the internal fistula opening under direct vision with irrigation. Diagnostic fistuloscopy was followed by advancement flap repair. In addition to feasibility, primary end points included detection of side tracts, success and continence status (assessed by the Cleveland Clinic Incontinence Score). Success was defined as closure of both internal and external openings, absence of drainage without further intervention and absence of abscess formation. Follow-up information was derived from clinical examination 3, 6 and 9 months postoperatively. RESULTS: Within a 3-month observation period (September to November 2011), VAAFT was attempted in 13 patients with Crohn’s associated complex fistulas. The completion rate was 85 % (11/13). In these 11 patients (median age 34 years, 64 % females), complex fistulas were transsphincteric (8), suprasphincteric (2) and recto-vaginal (1). Forty-six percent (5/11) had concomitant therapy with biologic drugs. In 36 % (4/11), VAAFT was performed with fecal diversion. Median duration of surgery was 22 (range 18-42) minutes. Using VAAFT, additional side tracts not detected preoperatively could be identified in 64 % (7/11). No morbidity occurred. After a mean follow-up of 9 months, the success rate was 82 % (9/11). No deterioration of continence was documented (Cleveland Clinic Incontinence Score 2.4 vs. 1.6, p > 0.05). CONCLUSION: Preliminary results of the addition of the VAAFT technique to advancement flap repair in Crohn’s fistulas demonstrate that this leads to a high identification rate of occult side tracts with encouraging short-term healing rates. Moreover, a completion rate of 85 % seems promising.
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Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Fecal incontinence, Abscess, Anal fistula, Ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, Fistula
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