The following is the summary of “Physical self-concept and ability to swim in patients born with anorectal malformation and Hirschsprung’s disease: a case control study” published in the December 2022 issue of Pediatrics by König, et al.

Hirschsprung’s disease (HD) and anorectal malformation (ARM) cause lifelong bladder and bowel problems for children, which may have a negative impact on their physical growth and development. In addition, the inability to swim presents an additional danger to one’s health. This research aimed to examine patients’ ARM and HD to learn how they felt about their bodies and how well they could swim. The members of the national patient association SoMA e.V. were surveyed in an anonymous fashion (6 through 25 years). Researchers used volunteers from within their own organization as a control group. The participants’ swimming skills, symptom burden as measured by the Rintala Score, and overall body image were all documented by means of scientifically sound questionnaires. 

Patients and controls were paired based on age and gender. The t-test and multiple linear regression models were utilized to determine statistical significance. There were a total of 83 matched control pairings used. The median age at which patients learned to swim was similar to that of controls (6.5 years, 95% CI: 6.1-6.9; 74.7% of patients) and that of swimmers (6.4 years, 95% CI: 6.1-6.8; 79.5% of controls; P=0.46). The percentage of patients who reported swimming (59.1%, P=0.048) was considerably lower among those receiving VACTERL. In comparison to non-swimmers (10.4, 95%-CI: 8.1-12.1, P=0,0049), swimmers had a significantly higher mean Rintala Score (12.5, 95%-CI: 11.6-13.2). The physical self-concept of prepubescent children (ages 6 to 12) did not differ from that of age-matched controls. 

When comparing adolescents and young adults with and without ARM/HD, the females had a considerably lower mean score on the subscales of flexibility, speed, endurance, and sports competence using the Rintala Score, and this was true regardless of the severity of their gastrointestinal symptoms. Compared to their peers, children with ARM/HD have normal swimming abilities and a healthy body image, but which dually changes as they age. Adolescents with ARM/HD should have their parents and healthcare providers encourage them to get moving.