The aim of this study was to determine what factors are important for the achievement of perfect anal continence after restorative proctocolectomy. One hundred patients underwent paired studies of anorectal physiology before and one year after restorative proctocolectomy with pelvic ileal reservoir (11 S, 25 J, 64 W) with stapled ileoanal anastomosis, without mucosectomy. Fifty seven patients attained perfect anal continence and were able to discriminate flatus from faeces with such confidence that they were able to release flatus safely without fear of faecal soiling. The remaining 43 patients experienced minor problems in this regard. Four factors were found to correlate significantly with a perfect functional result (median, perfect v imperfect): maximum resting anal pressure (72 v 57 cm H2O, p < 0.02), the sensory threshold in the upper and mid-anal canal (7.3 v 8.6 and 5.3 v 7.0 mA, p < 0.05 and p < 0.02), compliance of the ileal reservoir (12.4 v 7.6 ml/cm H2O, p < 0.01), and the presence of a pouch-anal inhibitory reflex (56 of 57 patients v 29 of 43 patients, p < 0.01). The quality of anal continence depends on several factors: a complaint ileal reservoir, a strong sensitive anal sphincter, and normal reflex coordination of the activities of the reservoir and the sphincter. Excellent pouch-anal coordination is obtainable irrespective of the design of the reservoir, provided that these criteria are satisfied.
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