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Radiology. 2001 Jan;218(1):75-84.

Preoperative MR imaging of anal fistulas: Does it really help the surgeon?

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1
Department of Radiology, University Hospital of Maastricht, P. Debyelaan 25, 6229 HX Maastricht, The Netherlands. rbe@rdia.azm.nl

Abstract

PURPOSE:

To evaluate the accuracy of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging with a quadrature phased-array coil for the detection of anal fistulas and to evaluate the additional clinical value of preoperative MR imaging, as compared with surgery alone.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

Fifty-six patients with anal fistulas underwent high-spatial-resolution MR imaging. Twenty-four had a primary fistula; 17, a recurrent fistula; and 15, a fistula associated with Crohn disease. MR imaging findings were withheld from the surgeon until surgery ended and verified, and surgery continued when required.

RESULTS:

MR imaging provided important additional information in 12 (21%) of 56 patients. In patients with Crohn disease, the benefit was 40% (six of 15); in patients with recurrent fistulas, 24% (four of 17); and in patients with primary fistulas, 8% (two of 24). The difference between patients with or without Crohn disease and between patients with a simple fistula versus the rest was significant (P <.05). The sensitivity and specificity for detecting fistula tracks were 100% and 86%, respectively; abscesses, 96% and 97%, respectively; horseshoe fistulas, 100% and 100%, respectively; and internal openings, 96% and 90%, respectively.

CONCLUSION:

High-spatial-resolution MR imaging is accurate for detecting anal fistulas. It provides important additional information in patients with Crohn disease-related and recurrent anal fistulas and is recommended in their preoperative work-up.

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