Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, Center for Maternal/Fetal Health

Anorectal malformation services in Denver, Colorado

Anorectal malformation describes several types of congenital abnormalities that affect the anus (the opening at the end of the intestine through which stool leaves the body) and the rectum (the area of large intestine just above the anus). Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children is uniquely equipped to diagnose and treat such conditions.

Our team of neonatologists, pediatric surgeons and highly educated staff are specially trained to care for babies affected by anorectal malformation. In addition, our facility is specifically designed to provide safe and appropriate care for babies and children.

To find an expert pediatrician or pediatric surgeon, call our program care coordinator at (720) 754-7642 .

Types of anorectal malformations

One in 5,000 babies is born with anorectal malformations. The anus and rectum form between five and seven weeks of development in the mother’s womb. Some babies do not develop this area correctly for unknown reasons. Some abnormalities include:

  • Narrow anal passage—The baby or child experiences constipation and discomfort.
  • Anal membrane—A thin membrane covers the anus and blocks stool, so the baby or child cannot poop.
  • Imperforate anus—The rectum is not connected to the anus, so the baby or child cannot poop.
  • Imperforate anus with fistula—The rectum is connected to the part of the urinary tract or reproductive system with a thin tube (fistula). The baby or child poops through the fistula instead of the anus, which can lead to infections.

Babies with anorectal malformations often have other abnormalities as well. This condition is linked to a group of other conditions, called VACTERL:

  • Vertebral
  • Anorectal malformation
  • Cardiac
  • Tracheoesophageal fistula/esophageal atresia
  • Renal or kidney
  • Limb

Anorectal malformation diagnosis

After your child’s birth, your child’s pediatrician will perform a thorough physical exam. During this exam, the physician looks at the anus to see if it is open and in the correct place. If an abnormality is found during the exam or is seen in the way stool is passed (or not passed at all), additional testing may include an abdominal X-ray and an abdominal ultrasound to determine the exact details of your baby’s condition.

Anorectal malformation treatment

Treatment for this congenital abnormality depends on the type of anorectal malformation and if your child has any other existing health conditions. If your baby only has a narrow anal passage, surgical services will not be needed. However, if your baby has an anal membrane, surgery will be needed to remove that membrane.

Babies with imperforate anus will need several surgeries to correct the condition. A colostomy is first performed to split the large intestine and route the ends through the abdominal wall. The stool and intestinal mucous will exit the body and collect in a bag outside of the body.

After a few months, a second surgery is performed to attach the rectum to the anus. The colostomy is left so the area can continue to grow without infection. After several more months, a final surgery is performed to close the colostomy.

Long-term outlook for anorectal malformation

Babies with anorectal malformations sometimes require long-term follow up care, including bowel management programs. The team at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children will work with your child to help create a program that is tailored to his or her specific needs.