PURPOSE: This report describes the advantages of 3D anal endosonography in depicting the normal anatomy of the anal canal in relation to sex and age. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A retrospective study was performed of 85 patients, 33 men and 52 women, previously examined with 3D anal ultrasound (US) for clinically suspected anorectal disease but found to be negative. The examinations were performed with a Bruel and Kjaer US system with a 2050 transducer, scanning from the anorectal junction to the subcutaneous portion of the external anal sphincter (EAS). The 3D reconstructions provided an estimation of sphincter length in the anterior and posterior planes, and axial 2D images enabled calculation of the thickness of the internal anal sphincter (IAS) and EAS in the anterior, posterior and lateral transverse planes. RESULTS: Distribution of the sphincter complex is asymmetric in both sexes: the EAS and IAS are significantly shorter in females, especially in the anterior longitudinal plane (p=0.005 and p<0.001, respectively). EAS and IAS thickness increases with age, especially the lateral IAS (R(2)=0.37, p<0.001) and the posterior EAS (R(2)=0.29, p=0.01). CONCLUSIONS: A good knowledge of anal-canal anatomy is essential to detect sphincter abnormalities when assessing pelvic floor dysfunction.
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