Autologous adipose-derived stem cells for the treatment of complex cryptoglandular perianal fistula: a prospective case-control study


Complex cryptoglandular perianal fistula (CPAF) is a kind of anal fistula that may cause anal incontinence after surgery. Minimally invasive surgery of anal fistula is constantly emerging. Over the past 20 years, there are several sphincter-sparing surgeries, one of which is autologous adipose-derived stem cell (ADSC) transplantation. However, to date, there is no study regarding the treatment of complex CPAF with ADSC in China. This is the first study in China on the treatment of complex CPAF with ADSC to evaluate its safety and efficacy.


Totally, 24 patients with complex CPAF were enrolled in this prospective case-control study from January 2018 to December 2019 in the National Colorectal Disease Center of Nanjing Hospital of Chinese Medicine Affiliated to Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine. Patients were divided into ADSC group and endorectal advancement flap (ERAF) group according to their desire. The healing of fistulas (healing of all treated fistulas at baseline, confirmed by doctor’s clinical assessment and magnetic resonance imaging or transrectal ultrasonography) was evaluated at week 12 after treatment. In addition to their safety evaluation based on adverse events monitored at each follow-up, the patients were also asked to complete some scoring scales at each follow-up including pain score with visual analog score (VAS) and anal incontinence score with Wexner score.


The closure rates within ADSC group and ERAF group at week 12 were 54.55% (6/11) and 53.85% (7/13), respectively, without significant difference between them. VAS score in ADSC group was significantly lower than that in ERAF group at the 5th day postoperatively [1(0,2) VS 2(2,4), p = 0.011], but no differences were observed at the other time. Wexner score of all patients was not increased with no significant differences between the two groups. Adverse events were observed fewer in ADSC group (27.27%) than that in ERAF group (53.85%), but there was no significant difference between them.


This study indicated safety and efficiency of ADSC for the treatment of complex CPAF in the short term, which is not inferior to that of ERAF. ADSC may provide a promised and potential treatment for complex CPAF conforming to the future of the treatment, which is reconstruction and regeneration.

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