Anal sphincter defects and bowel symptoms in women with and without recognized anal sphincter trauma

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The purpose of this study was to determine the rate of new bowel symptoms and anal sphincter defects in primiparous women with and without recognized anal sphincter (AS) injury.

Study design

One hundred seventeen primiparous women classified with increasing degrees of perineal trauma and 21 controls delivered by cesarean section were enrolled immediately postpartum and demographic and delivery data were collected. At 6 weeks' postpartum, subjects completed a bowel function questionnaire and endoanal ultrasonography was performed. Logistic regression, chi-square, and 2-sample t tests were used for statistical analysis.


A significant difference in new bowel symptoms was reported in women with (39%) and without (11%) recognized AS injury (P = .002). AS defects were present in 0%, 15%, 23%, 37%, and 67% of women with C/S, first-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree lacerations, respectively. Combined defects of the internal and external AS were associated with the greatest risk of new bowel symptoms (OR 32.1 [95% CI 9.6-107], P < .001).


In women with and without recognized AS trauma, new bowel symptoms were strongly correlated with the presence of anatomic AS defects postpartum.

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