Screening for VACTERL Anomalies in Children with Anorectal Malformations: Outcomes of a Standardized Approach

Hannah M.E. Evans-Barns, Liesel Porrett, Penelope L. Hartmann, Jessica Taranto, Suzie Jackson-Fleurus, Phil G. Dinning, John M. Hutson, Warwick J. Teague, Sebastian K. King

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: The majority of patients with an anorectal malformation (ARM) have associated congenital anomalies. It is well established that all patients diagnosed with an ARM should undergo systematic screening, including renal, spinal, and cardiac imaging. This study aimed to evaluate the findings and completeness of screening, following local implementation of standardized protocols. 

Methods: A retrospective cohort study was performed assessing all patients with an ARM managed at our tertiary pediatric surgical center, following a standardized protocol implementation for VACTERL screening (January 2016–December 2021). Cohort demographics, medical characteristics, and screening investigations were analyzed. Findings were compared with our previously published data (2000–2015), conducted prior to protocol implementation. 

Results: One hundred twenty-seven (64 male, 50.4%) children were eligible for inclusion. Complete screening was performed in 107/127 (84.3%) children. Of these, one or more associated anomalies were diagnosed in 85/107 (79.4%), whilst the VACTERL association was demonstrated in 57/107 (53.3%). The proportion of children that underwent complete screening increased significantly in comparison with those assessed prior to protocol implementation (RR 0.43 [CI 0.27–0.66]; p < 0.001). Children with less complex ARM types were significantly less likely to receive complete screening (p = 0.028). Neither presence of an associated anomaly, nor prevalence of the VACTERL association, differed significantly by ARM type complexity. 

Conclusion: Screening for associated VACTERL anomalies in children with ARM was significantly improved following standardized protocol implementation. The prevalence of associated anomalies in our cohort supports the value of routine VACTERL screening in all children with ARM, regardless of malformation type. 

Level of Evidence: II.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1263-1268
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number7
Early online date15 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Anorectal malformation
  • Associated anomaly
  • Neonate
  • Screening


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