(Imperforate Anus; Anorectal Malfunction)
Anal atresia is a condition that a baby is born with. It is a problem with the development of the anus and the part of the intestine leading to the anus. Anal atresia can make it difficult or impossible for the child to pass stool. The specific problems can vary but may include:
- Anal opening is too narrow or in the wrong place
- Membrane covers the anal opening
- Intestines are not connected to the anus
- An abnormal connection between the intestines and urinary systems, allowing stool to pass through the urinary system
Most of the time, anal atresia can be corrected.
An unborn baby’s intestines develop during the 5th-7th week of pregnancy. A disturbance in this development causes anal atresia. The exact reason for the disturbance isn’t clear.
Anal atresia happens in boys twice as often as girls. It may also occur with other birth defects. The use of steroid inhalers by the mother during pregnancy may be linked to anal atresia.
If your baby has anal atresia, symptoms may include:
- No anal opening present at birth
- Anal opening in the wrong location
- No stool within 24-48 hours after birth
- Stool being excreted through the vagina, penis, scrotum, or urethra
- Tight, swollen stomach
Milder anal atresia may not be apparent until later in life. It may show as a lack of bowel control by age 3.
You will be asked about your baby’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Images may be taken of your baby’s bodily structures. This can be done with:
Talk with your child’s doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:
Surgery may be an option to correct the anal atresia. The exact surgery will depend on the defects that are present. Options include:
- Surgery to connect the anus and intestine
- Anoplasty to move the anus to the correct location
- Colostomy to attach a part of the intestine to an opening in the wall of the abdomen to allow waste to pass into a bag outside of the body
Temporary Colostomy of an Infant
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There are no current guidelines to prevent anal atresia.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Updated July 2010. Updated December 2013. Accessed May 29, 2014.
Imperforate anus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
Updated June 13, 2012. Accessed May 29, 2014.
Scott, J, Swenson O. Imperforate anus: Results in 63 cases and some anatomical considerations. Tufts University Medical School publication website Available at:
Accessed May 29, 2014.
Last Updated: 5/29/2014