Chronic anal fissure has traditionally been treated surgically. Initial enthusiasm for chemical sphincterotomy has waned because of poor outcomes with glyceryl trinitrate ointment. In this study the use of topical 2 per cent diltiazem ointment has been investigated as an alternative method of chemical sphincterotomy.
A prospective assessment of 71 consecutive patients with a chronic anal fissure treated with 2 per cent topical diltiazem ointment for a median duration of 9 (range 2–16) weeks was performed.
Fifty-one patients (75 per cent) experienced healing of the fissure after 2–3 months of treatment with topical diltiazem. Seventeen patients who did not heal were treated for a further 8 weeks with topical diltiazem. Eight of these patients subsequently healed with diltiazem. Fifty-nine of 67 patients who completed follow-up therefore healed on diltiazem ointment. Four patients experienced perianal dermatitis and one patient experienced headaches. No other side-effects were recorded. After a median of 32 (range 14–67) weeks' follow-up following completion of treatment, 27 of 41 patients available remain symptom free. Six of seven patients with recurrent fissure were treated successfully by repeat chemical sphincterotomy.
Topical 2 per cent diltiazem ointment used as an agent for chemical sphincterotomy for chronic anal fissure offers significant healing rates but does not have a significant side-effect profile, which may aid compliance to treatment. Early recurrences are common but usually amenable to further chemical sphincterotomy. © 2001 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd