The Snug Seton: short and medium term results of slow fistulotomy for idiopathic anal fistulae

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To assess the short and intermediate outcomes of a modification of the traditional cutting seton technique, using a ‘snug’ silastic seton, to treat idiopathic anal fistulae.

Patients and methods

Between August 1997 and December 2002, 35 patients with idiopathic fistulae (4 female; age 26–76 years) underwent insertion of a ‘snugly’ tied 1 mm silastic seton (silicone nerve vessel retractor, Medasil ®), as definitive treatment. Short-term assessment was performed by case note review. Patients were subsequently invited to participate in a medium-term review.


Twenty-nine patients' notes (3 female) were available for short-term analysis. Fistulae were classified as intersphincteric (9) and transsphincteric (20). The seton spontaneously cut out in 15/29 (52%) after a median of 24 weeks. In 14 patients the seton enclosed residual tissue (< 5 mm) required division as a day case procedure, at a median of 35 weeks. All fistulae healed but 10/29 (34%) patients (1 female; 8 transsphincteric) experienced minor incontinence. Sixteen patients participated in a medium-term review at a median of 42 months; 7 had experienced early continence disturbance. No patient suffered recurrence, but minor incontinence persisted in 4/16 (25%) patients (0 females; 3 transsphincteric). All patients were at least ‘satisfied’ with the outcome.


In the short and medium term, the ‘snug’ seton is a safe and effective addition to the fistula surgeon's armamentarium.

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