[MR imaging of ano-perineal suppurations]. Academic Article uri icon

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  • A good digital examination is usually sufficient for the diagnosis and the treatment planning of anal fistulae. Cross-sectional imaging techniques, however, can accurately identify deep abscesses and characterize complex fistulae. MRI is well suited for this examination, with almost no motion artifact, excellent contrast between muscles and fatty spaces, and multiplanar acquisition. A fistula starts from an internal opening in the digestive tube and can end in an abscess cavity or open at the skin at an external opening. The cryptoglandular anal fistulae (fistula-in-ano) are non-specific in origin and are usually simple, whereas specific fistulae are due to many diseases such as Crohn's disease, tuberculosis, trauma, radiation, colloid carcinoma, hidradenitis suppurative, actinomycosis or lymphoma and are often complex. MRI appears useful in the cases with recurrent fistulae, Crohn's disease, when the secondary orifice is atypically placed, during a multistep treatment for complex fistulae, or when an anal stenosis forbids a clinical or ultrasound examination. A good knowledge of the perineum anatomy is required for analysing the fistula tracts. The muscle planes separate fatty spaces which have an important role in the spread of the disease: sub-mucosal space, marginal space, intersphincteric space, postanal space of Courtney, supralevator space, and the two ischioanal spaces on both sides of the anal canal. The anal canal is surrounded by the ring-like internal sphincter, which continues the internal muscularis propria of the rectum, and the external sphincter, which is intermingled with the puborectalis muscle. We perform our MRI examination with an external phased array coil, and we place a cannula to identify the anal canal. The T2W sequences give the more interesting information, but the sequences with fat-suppression and gadolinium chelate injection are also very useful. The MRI examination allows the analysis of: 1) the location of the fistula tracts according to Park's classification, 2) the location of the internal opening, 3) the locations of the external opening(s), 4) the location of deep abscesses, 5) the long distance extensions, 6) the state of the ano-rectal wall and the perirectal spaces, 6) the damages of the anal sphincter.


  • Cuenod, CA
  • de Parades, V
  • Siauve, N
  • Marteau, P
  • Grataloup, C
  • Hernigou, A
  • Berger, A
  • Cugnenc, PH
  • Frija, Guy

publication date

  • April 2003

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