Atrium Health Navicent Women's Care Urogynecology & Pelvic Surgery


What is a sphincteroplasty?

Young woman smiling and looking over her shoulderSphincteroplasty is a procedure use to correct fecal incontinence, which is the involuntary leakage of flatus or fecal material. The normal anal sphincter is made up of two parts:

  • Internal anal sphincter: a layer of circular smooth muscle
  • External analy sphincter: the outer layer of skeletal muscle

Injury to these muscles (i.e. obstetrical laceration) can cause defects or breaks in the muscle, compromising their ability to keep stool in the rectum until it is time to evacuate. The goal of sphincteroplasty is to repair the muscles in order to restore the normal function of the anal sphincter.

How is the procedure performed?

Anal sphincteroplasty involves an incision in between the rectum and vagina in order to gain access to the anal sphincter. Once the sphincter is identified, it subsequently dissected out and separated in order to allow for subsequent overlapping repair to restore the muscle all the way around the rectum.

What should I expect?

Young woman smiling After initial consultation with Dr. Kow, you may be asked to undergo an endoanal ultrasound to evaluate the sphincter and identify the areas of weakness or defects prior to surgery. Prior to surgery, you will need to attend a preoperative visit with Dr. Kow and draw some basic lab work. Should you need surgical clearance, you will be asked to obtain this prior to surgery.

The surgical procedure takes less than an hour to complete. At the time of this surgery additional procedures may be performed to correct concomitant prolapse or repair the perineal body (perineoplasty).

What is my recovery time?

Typical recovery time is one overnight stay at the hospital. While pain tolerance is variable among patients, most patients report mild pain with sphincteroplasty.

Overall recovery time includes six weeks with some activity restrictions, however patients are often able to return to a normal routine shortly after surgery. Restrictions including the following:

  • No heavy lifting of more than 10 lbs for 6 weeks
  • No tub baths for 6 weeks
  • No sexual intercourse for 6 weeks
  • No driving while on narcotic pain medications

What are the risks of the procedure?

Complications from sphincteroplasty are typically very low. However with every procedure there always some risks including anesthesia problems, postoperative pain, intraoperative bleeding, infection, blood clots and damage to adjacent organs. With regards to a sphincteroplasty, some specific risks include the following:

  • breakdown of the incision or repair
  • local infection
  • recurrence of symptoms

Will my insurance company cover the procedure?

Most insurance policies will cover sphincteroplasty. Our office will help you with obtaining prior authorization if your insurance policy requires it. If you have further questions, contact your insurance carrier to determine the details regarding your coverage.