Effect of a subsequent pregnancy on anal sphincter integrity and function after obstetric anal sphincter injury (OASI)

Okeahialam N. A., Thakar R., Sultan A. H.
International Urogynecology Journal

Introduction and hypothesis Endoanal ultrasound (EAUS) and anal manometry are used in the assessment women with a history of obstetric anal sphincter injury (OASI), both postpartum and in a subsequent pregnancy, to aid counselling regarding mode of delivery (MOD).

A prospective observational study between 2012 to 2020 was completed. Women were reviewed 3 months postpartum following OASI and in the second half of a subsequent pregnancy. Anorectal symptoms were measured using the validated St Mark’s Incontinence Score (SMIS: asymptomatic to mild symptoms = ≤ 4). Anal manometry (incremental maximum squeeze pressure [iMSP: normal = > 20 mmHg]) and EAUS (abnormal = sphincter defect > 1 h in size) were performed.

One hundred forty-six women were identified and 67.8% had an anal sphincter defect ≤ 1 h in size postnatally. In those with a defect ≤ 1 h, postpartum mean iMSP and SMIS significantly improved in a subsequent pregnancy (p = 0.04 and p = 0.01, respectively). In women with a defect > 1 h, there was no significant difference between the mean iMSP or SMIS score postnatally compared to a subsequent pregnancy. At both time points, significantly more women had an anal sphincter defect ≤ 1 h and SMIS of ≤ 4 (p = 0.001 and p < 0.001 respectively) compared to those with a defect < 1 h. In addition, significantly more women had an anal sphincter defect ≤ 1 h and iMSP ≥ 20 mmHg (p < 0.001). Overall, out of the 146 women included in this study, 76 (52.1%) with a defect ≤ 1 h also had an iMSP ≥ 20 mmHg and SMIS ≤ 4 at 3 months postpartum.

Women who remain asymptomatic with normal anal manometry and no abnormal sphincter defects on EAUS postnatally do not need to have these investigations repeated in a subsequent pregnancy and can be recommended to have a vaginal delivery. If our protocol was modified, over half of the women in this study could have had their MOD recommendation made in the postnatal period alone.