The purpose of this study was to explore whether preoperative diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) can be used to evaluate the prognosis of anal fistula and identify the influence factors of postoperative recurrence.
This is a retrospective study of 117 patients with anal fistula who have undergone preoperative DW-MRI and surgery. All patients were followed up by telephone or reexamination within 2 years after surgery. Of the 117 patients, 35 were excluded due to loss of follow-up and only 82 were included in this study. MRI fistula imaging-related data were analyzed, and fistula severity was scored using criteria of both local extension of fistulas and active inflammation for a total maximum score of 22. The apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) value of the fistula in patients with anal fistula during preoperative MRI examination was measured. According to whether anal fistula patients are accompanied by perianal abscess, they are divided into two groups, namely anal fistula group and anal fistula with abscess group. Based on whether patients with anal fistula recur after surgery, they were further divided into recurrent group and non-recurrent group.
82 patients with anal fistula were included in this analysis, 23 of them recurred and 59 were cured. Among patients with perianal abscess, the mean ADC value of the recurrent group was (1.19 ± 0.21)×10 mm/s, which is significantly lower than that of the non-recurrent group (1.36 ± 0.19)×10 mm/s. There were significant statistical differences in ADC values between the two groups (p = 0.03). Among patients with anal fistulas without abscesses, 15 patients recurred after surgery, with a mean ADC value of (1.45 ± 0.27) ×10 mm/s, and 33 patients didn’t occur, with a mean ADC value of (1.44 ± 0.31)×10 mm/s. The ADC value of preoperative fistula in patients was negative significant correlation with MRI findings score (r= -0.332, P = 0.002). Risk factors for the recurrence after anal fistula surgery include the time interval between MRI and operation, multiple fistula tracks. Fatigue, excessive intake of spicy or greasy food and diarrhea may also be external risk factors for postoperative recurrence of patients with anal fistula.
DW-MRI has important application value for the prognosis evaluation of anal fistula. Complex type of anal fistula and improper lifestyle are the main risk factors affecting the recurrence after anal fistula surgery.

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