Anorectal malformations, such as an imperforate anus or a cloacal abnormality, refer to congenital (present at birth) disorders that occur when the anus and rectum do not develop properly. Treatment for anorectal malformations varies depending on the type but, in general, most newborns will require surgery to correct the problem. If your child has an anorectal malformation, you can trust the care and compassion of Nemours surgeons and specialists who are consistently named among the very best in the nation.
Approximately 1 in 5,000 babies in the United States is born each year with an anorectal malformation, a condition caused by a defect in the way the lower portion of the intestinal and urogenital (urinary tract/reproductive system) tracts develop while in utero (in the womb).
Anorectal malformations typically occur between the fifth and seventh weeks of gestation (fetal development in the womb), and tend to be slightly more common in boys than girls.
Types of Anorectal Malformations
Anorectal malformations affect the bowel movement process (eliminating stool/poop/feces from the body) due to one of several defects which may include:
- a narrow or misplaced anal passage (called “anal stenosis”)
- membrane, or skin, that covers the anal passage (called “membranous anal atresia”)
- a missing connection between the rectum and the anus (known as “imperforate anus”) with or without an improper connection between the anus and the urinary or genital tract (called a “fistula”)
Common Conditions and Disorders Related to Anorectal Malformations in Children
About half of all children with anorectal malformations also have co-existing (or an increased risk for) associated medical conditions, including vertebral, anal, cardiovascular, tracheoesophageal, renal (kidney) and limb abnormalities or defects — which are collectively known as “VACTERL associations.”
Nemours surgeons and specialists have vast experience working together to care for children with anorectal malformations and related conditions which include:
- spinal defects (spina bifida, hemivertebra, absent vertebra or tethered spinal cord)
- congenital heart defects (tetralogy of Fallot, pulmonary atresia)
- tracheal or esophageal defects (esophageal atresia, tracheoesophageal fistula)
- kidney and urinary tract defects (vesicoureteral reflux, horseshoe kidney)
- limb defects (forearms, fingers and legs)
Other possibly related conditions children may have are Down syndrome (also called Trisomy 21) or rarely, Hirschsprung disease.
Our Team Approach to Your Child's Care
At Nemours, we work together across specialties and sometimes across locations to provide comprehensive, expert care for your child and family, using the most advanced technologies and treatments available. Your child’s care team may require physicians and nurses specifically trained in:
- neonatal intensive care
- pediatric surgery
- gastroenterology (digestive health)
- cardiology (heart care)
- urology (urinary health)
- nephrology (kidney health)
- behavioral health (psychology and psychiatry)
Nemours’ Family-Centered Care
At the center of our care are our patients and families. We understand that no one knows your child better than you, so we always take time listen to your concerns and provide personal service and holistic care for your child, and family, through emotional support, education and open communication. That’s our promise.