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BackgroundThis study describes the presentation and initial management of anorectal malformation (ARM); evaluating the frequency, causes and consequences of late diagnosis.MethodsA prospective, population cohort study was undertaken for newly diagnosed ARMs in the UK and Ireland from 01/10/2015 and 30/09/2016. Follow-up was completed at one year. Data are presented as n (%), appropriate statistical methods used. Factors associated with late diagnosis; defined as: detection of ARM either following discharge or more than 72 h after birth were assessed with univariable logistic regression.ResultsTwenty six centres reported on 174 cases, 158 of which were classified according to the type of malformation and 154 had completed surgical data. Overall, perineal fistula was the most commonly detected anomaly 43/158 (27%); of the 41 of these children undergoing surgery, 15 (37%) had a stoma formed. 21/154 (14%, CI95{9-20}) patients undergoing surgery experienced post-operative complications. Thirty-nine (22%) were diagnosed late and 12 (7%) were detected >30 days after birth. Factors associated with late diagnosis included female sex (OR 2.06; 1.0-4.26), having a visible perineal opening (OR 2.63; 1.21-5.67) and anomalies leading to visible meconium on the perineum (OR 18.74; 2.47-141.73). 56/174 (32%) had a diagnosis of VACTERL association (vertebral, anorectal, cardiac, tracheal, oesophageal, renal and limb); however, not all infants were investigated for commonly associated anomalies. 51/140 (36%) had a cardiac anomaly detected on echocardiogram.ConclusionThere is room for improvement within the care for infants born with ARM in the UK and Ireland. Upskilling those performing neonatal examination to allow timely diagnosis, instruction of universal screening for associated anomalies and further analysis of the factors leading to clinically unnecessary stoma formation are warranted.Level of evidenceII (Prospective Cohort Study <80% follow-up).

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of pediatric surgery

Publication Date



Department of Paediatric Surgery, Cambridge University Hospitals, United Kingdom; National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.