Main AHCA Website

AHCA’s main website for information on Medicaid, Health Quality Assurance and the Florida Center for Health Information and Transparency.

Go >

Florida Health Information Network

This website provides information and resources relating to AHCA’s initiatives for Health Information Technology and Health Information Exchange.

Go >

Provides health education and information to compare and locate health care providers in Florida to make well-informed health care decisions.

Go >
AHCA Network of Websites

Health Education

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Imperforate anus


Imperforate anus is a defect that is present from birth (congenital). The opening to the anus is missing or blocked. The anus is the opening to the rectum through which stools leave the body.

Alternative Names

Anorectal malformation; Anal atresia


Imperforate anus may occur in several forms.

  • The rectum may end in a pouch that does not connect with the colon.
  • The rectum may have openings to other structures. These may include the urethra, bladder, base of the penis or scrotum in boys, or vagina in girls.
  • There may be narrowing (stenosis) of the anus or no anus.

It is caused by abnormal development of the fetus. Many forms of imperforate anus occur with other birth defects.


Symptoms of the problem may include:

  • Anal opening very near the vagina opening in girls
  • First stool is not passed within 24 to 48 hours after birth
  • Missing or moved opening to the anus
  • Stool passes out of the vagina, base of penis, scrotum, or urethra
  • Swollen belly area

Exams and tests

A health care provider can diagnose this condition during a physical exam. Imaging tests may be recommended.


The infant should be checked for other problems, such as abnormalities of the genitals, urinary tract, and spine.

Surgery to correct the defect is needed. If the rectum connects with other organs, these organs will also need to be repaired. A temporary colostomy (connecting the end of the large intestine to the abdomen wall so that stool can be collected in a bag) is often needed.

Outlook (prognosis)

Most defects can successfully be corrected with surgery. Most children with mild defects do very well. However, constipation can be a problem.

Children who have more complex surgeries still have control over their bowel movements most of the time. However, they often need to follow a bowel program. This includes eating high-fiber foods, taking stool softeners, and sometimes using enemas.

Some children may need more surgery.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

This problem is often found when the newborn infant is first examined. Call your provider if a child treated for imperforate anus has abdominal pain or fails to develop any bowel control by the age of 3.


There is no known prevention. Parents with a family history of this defect may seek genetic counseling.


Chung DH. Pediatric surgery. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 67.

Stafford SJ, Klein MD. Surgical conditions of the anus and rectum. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 336.

Review Date:4/21/2015
Reviewed By:Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback
1. Did you find this information useful?

2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?