Anorectal malformations and the impact of HIV on surgical outcome

  • T.D. Gabler
  • J Loveland
  • A Theron
  • C Westgarth-Taylor


Background. Anorectal malformations (ARMs) represent a significant surgical load in South African (SA) paediatric surgical centres. Surgical treatment of ARMs may be associated with postoperative complications owing to the nature of surgical procedures necessary in the neonatal and infant period. HIV and its effect on the immune response compound postoperative surgical complications. The impact of HIV exposure and its effect on the child’s immune status, independent of the child’s HIV status, has yet to be studied in the surgical population.

Objectives. To assess the incidence of complications in our population of ARM patients and to explore whether these were increased in HIV-exposed but serologically negative children compared with HIV-unexposed children.

Methods. This was a prospective study of all patients presenting with ARMs to the paediatric surgery units attached to the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, SA. Specifically, exposure to an HIV-positive mother, patient HIV status and presence of surgical complications were documented. Data were analysed for the period August 2016 - September 2017.

Results. A total of 50 children were included (none were excluded); 19 (38%) were HIV-exposed but none were HIV-positive, and 28 (56%) were male and 22 (44%) female. Seventy-six operative procedures were performed, with 27 operative complications. In the HIV-exposed group, 68% of patients experienced operative complications, compared with 45% in the unexposed group (p=0.1); 50% of the HIV-exposed patients who had stoma formation experienced complications, compared with 20% in the unexposed group (p=0.08).

Conclusions. The incidence of postoperative infectious complications in HIV-exposed patients was higher than in HIV-unexposed patients. The incidence of postoperative complications in HIV-unexposed patients parallels that in the international literature, except in the posterior sagittal anorectoplasty groups. It remains critically important to follow stringent perioperative protocols for infection
prevention and aggressively treat any infection that arises, particularly in patients born to HIV-positive mothers, regardless of the patient’s HIV status.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135