Our aim was to explore the association between anal incontinence (AI) and persistent anal sphincter defects diagnosed with 3D endoanal (EAUS), introital (IUS) and transperineal ultrasound (TPUS) in women after obstetric anal sphincter injury (OASI) and study the association between sphincter defects and anal pressure.
We carried out a cross-sectional study of 250 women with OASI recruited during the period 2013-2015. They were examined 6-12 weeks postpartum or in a subsequent pregnancy with 3D EAUS, IUS and TPUS and measurement of anal pressure. Prevalence of urgency/solid/liquid AI or flatal AI and anal pressure were compared in women with a defect and those with an intact sphincter (diagnosed off-line) using Chi-squared and Mann-Whitney U test.
At a mean of 23.6 (SD 30.1) months after OASI, more women with defect than those with intact sphincters on EAUS had AI; urgency/solid/liquid AI vs external defect: 36% vs 13% and flatal AI vs internal defect: 27% vs 13%, p < 0.05. On TPUS, more women with defect sphincters had flatal AI: 32% vs 13%, p = 0.03. No difference was found on IUS. Difference between defect and intact sphincters on EAUS, IUS and TPUS respectively was found for mean [SD] maximum anal resting pressure (48 [13] vs 55 [14] mmHg; 48 [12] vs 56 [13] mmHg; 50 [13] vs 54 [14] mmHg) and squeeze incremental pressure (33 [17] vs 49 [28] mmHg; 37 [23] vs 50 [28] mmHg; 36 [18] vs 50 [30] mmHg; p < 0.01).
Endoanal ultrasound had the strongest association with AI symptoms 2 years after OASI. Sphincter defects detected using all ultrasound methods were associated with lower anal pressure.