Table of Contents    
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 406-410  

Comparing Ksharasutra (Ayurvedic Seton) and open fistulotomy in the management of fistula-in-ano

1 Department of Plastic Surgery, Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
2 Department of General Surgery, Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital, Murshidabad, West Bengal, India
3 Department of Anatomy, Calcutta National Medical College and Chittaranjan Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
4 Department of Hematology, ESI-PGIMSR and Medical College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
5 Department of Pediatric Surgery, NRS Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Date of Web Publication6-Jul-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Gouranga Dutta
113, Ashutosh Road, Ward No. 1, PO: Mathabhanga, Cooch Behar - 736 146, West Bengal
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0976-9668.160022

Rights and Permissions

Background: Most commonly practiced surgical "lay open" technique to treat fistula-in-ano (a common anorectal pathology) has high rate of recurrence and anal incontinence. Alternatively, a nonsurgical cost efficient treatment with Ksharasutra (cotton Seton coated with Ayurvedic medicines) has minimal complications. In our study, we have tried to compare these two techniques. Materials and Methods: A prospective randomized control study was designed involving patients referred to the Department of General Surgery in RG Kar Medical College, Kolkata, India, from January 2010 to September 2011. Results: Among 50 patients, 26 were in Ksharasutra and 24 were in fistulotomy group. 86% patients were male and 54% of the patients were in the fourth decade. About 74% fistulas are inter-sphincteric and 26% were of trans-sphincteric variety. Severe postoperative pain was more (7.7% vs. 25%) in fistulotomy group, while wound discharge was more associated with Ksharasutra group (15.3% vs. 8.3%). Wound scarring, bleeding, and infection rate were similar in both groups. Ksharasutra group took more time to heal (mean: 53 vs. 35.7 days, P = 0.002) despite reduced disruption to their routine work (2.7 vs. 15.5 days work off, P <0.001). Interestingly, pain experienced was less in Ksharasutra group, there was no open wound in contrast to fistulotomy and it was significantly cost effective (Rupees 166 vs. 464). Conclusion: Treatment of fistula-in-ano with Ksharasutra is a simple with low complications and minimal cost.

Keywords: Fistula-in-ano, fistulotomy, Ksharasutra, Seton

How to cite this article:
Dutta G, Bain J, Ray AK, Dey S, Das N, Das B. Comparing Ksharasutra (Ayurvedic Seton) and open fistulotomy in the management of fistula-in-ano. J Nat Sc Biol Med 2015;6:406-10

How to cite this URL:
Dutta G, Bain J, Ray AK, Dey S, Das N, Das B. Comparing Ksharasutra (Ayurvedic Seton) and open fistulotomy in the management of fistula-in-ano. J Nat Sc Biol Med [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Mar 4];6:406-10. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Fistula-in-ano is one of the most common anorectal diseases in which the chronic granulating track runs from the anal canal or rectum to the perianal skin or perineum and is associated with considerable discomfort and morbidity to the patient. Various modalities such as open surgery in the form of fistulectomy or fistulotomy; Seton treatment (chemical or cutting); chemical destruction of the tract by corrosives; application of fibrin glue or fistula plug are advocated for management of fistula-in-ano.

Surgical "lay open" technique, which is most widely practiced, has the problems of extensive surgery in-and-round the anal canal; prolonged hospitalization; high rate of recurrence and anal incontinence. Moreover, the initial recovery period is a bit discomfort to patients and patient usually loses few days work activities. Alternatively, application of chemical Seton named "Ksharasutra" (a medicated cotton thread coated with Ayurvedic medicines) [Figure 1] is mentioned in the ancient Indian literature and is still practiced in some centers in India. [1] Application and follow-up of Ksharasutra are very easy, require lesser hospital stay, lesser pain, have very low rate of complications and most importantly cost of therapy is minimal. Hence, in our study, we compared the treatment and outcome of fistula-in-ano between classical "lay open" technique and using Ksharasutra (chemical Seton).
Figure 1: Ksharasutra in a glass bottle

Click here to view

   Materials and Methods Top

The study carried out at the Department of General Surgery in our Institution, from January 2010 to September 2011. The study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee and written consent was obtained from all participants during the study. A two digit random number table was used to select the treatment protocol for 50 patients selected from General Surgery outpatient department (OPD). A total of 26 patients was selected for the Ksharasutra (medicated Seton) group and 24 patients were selected for fistulotomy group. After completion of the study, all data were tabulated and analyzed with SPSS version 17 [IBM Corporation] and Epi info version 3.6.3.[CDC, Atlanta] software.

Inclusion criteria

Patient complaining perianal discharge (mucoid, stool-like) evaluated at outpatient department. OPD patients admitted after proper work up and subjected to intervention (fistulotomy or medicated Seton).

Exclusion criteria

Patients with severely compromised cardiopulmonary status, suffering from or having history of tuberculosis or Crohn's disease and those who are immunocompromised, having evidence of HIV infection, diabetes, and cancer therapies.

Surgical techniques and steps

Patients were put in lithotomy position and site of external opening/s located. An endoscope view of proctodeum by proctoscope or anal speculum was performed in all cases to identify the internal opening (using methylene blue dye in some cases) and other associated lesion like hemorrhoids if present. All cases were operated under local/regional anesthesia.

Application of Ksharasutra

A long metallic malleable probe with an eye was introduced through the external opening and attempted to pass the tip of probe through the internal opening [Figure 2]a. Care was taken not to create false passage. The eye of the probe was threaded with Ksharasutra [Figure 2]b and probe was gently withdrawn, so the entire tract was threaded with medicated Ksharasutra. Following which the two ends of the thread were snugly tied using two knots outside the anal canal [Figure 2]c.
Figure 2

Click here to view

In patients with multiple external openings, it was found that whenever internal opening is single, one tract is the side branch of the other tract and ultimately forms a single channel before opening into the anal canal. In these cases, close vicinity fistulotomy or laying open of the tract was done for the side branch up to the main tract, thereafter through the main tract with the help of a probe Ksharasutra was threaded. For multiple fistulas in different quadrants (far from one another by clock position), multiple Ksharasutra were applied.

Open fistulotomy

A long metallic malleable probe with an eye was used to probe the whole fistulous tract. The whole fistulous tract was then laid open. In cases of high fistula, track above the anorectal ring was curetted. Few patients bleed significantly during the procedure and needed suturing with absorbable suture.

In patients with multiple external openings, merging of the tracts with fistulotomy was done when they were nearby and preferably in the same quadrant. When external openings are located in different quadrants, fistulotomy of each tract was done individually.

Postprocedural care

In Ksharasutra-treated group, the thread was changed at 2 weeks interval and gradually tightened [Figure 3]a. A new Ksharasutra was applied by rail-road technique and the conditions of wound, discharge, pain, etc., were evaluated. Number of dressings changed per day gave an estimate of wound discharge and postoperative pain was evaluated by visual analog scale. The length of old thread was measured to know the length of cutting of fistulous tract. Gradually, the thread cuts out of the tract [Figure 3]b with a healed wound [Figure 3]c.
Figure 3

Click here to view

   Results Top

Among the 50 patients, 13 (50%) patients in Ksharasutra group and 14 (58.34%) patients of fistulotomy group belong to 30-39 year of age. Most (86%) of the patients were males, however, with equal gender distributed in both the groups. Most of the external openings were located either antero-laterally (52%), that is, 10, 11, 1, and 2 o'clock position; or postero-lateral (36%), that is, 4, 5, 7, and 8 o'clock position. No patient was presented with anteriorly positioned fistula or fistula at 12 o'clock and majority of the patient had single external opening (88%). Furthest distance (between external opening and anal verge) was 7 cm and closest distance was 0.5 cm. Furthest distance (between internal opening and anal verge) was 4 cm and minimum distance was 1 cm. We observed 74% cases with inter-sphincteric fistula and 26% of trans-sphincteric fistula [Table 1].
Table 1: Clinical presentation of fistula-in-ano

Click here to view

In Ksharasutra group, maximum time duration needed for operation was 35 min and minimum time duration was 8 min. While, in fistulotomy group maximum and minimum time required was 40 and 15 min, respectively. Student's t-test showed that operating time was significantly less in Ksharasutra groups. Patients in Ksharasutra group experienced significantly (P = 0.001) less pain than fistulotomy patients. Amount of postoperative wound discharge was mild for both group and not statistically different (P = 0.814). In both the groups were given the same antibiotics (i.e., ciprofloxacin + metronidazole) postoperatively, however lesser duration of antibiotic therapy was required in Ksharasutra group compared to fistulotomy.

Maximum of 48 h and minimum of 6 h hospital stay was required by patients treated with Ksharasutra. Whereas those patients who underwent fistulotomy maximum and minimum duration of hospital stay were 72 h and 24 h, respectively. Ksharasutra group had significant (P < 0.001) lesser duration of stay in the hospital.

The mean duration of healing was 53.00 ± 26.75 days in medicated Ksharasutra group. Whereas in fistulotomy group, mean duration of healing was 35.67 ± 9.17 days. Ksharasutra group required significantly (P = 0.002) more number of days for healing. However, in Ksharasutra group 19 out of 26 patients resumed their work the following day after the procedure. The maximum and minimum duration "off-work" was 8 and 26 days, respectively. Ksharasutra group had significantly (P < 0.001) few days "off-work" compared to fistulotomy group. Different postoperative complications were observed, scaring was the most common complication. Serious complication like recurrence was less in Ksharasutra groups [Table 2]. Expenditure was calculated for all patients excluding hospital bed charges and operation theater charges (as they are free in our Institution). Expenditure for Ksharasutra group was significantly cost effective than fistulotomy group (international normalized ratio 166 vs. 464).
Table 2: Preoperative and postoperative findings

Click here to view

   Discussion Top

Use of "chemical" Seton (Ksharasutra) for treatment of fistula-in-ano is reported in ancient Indian texts. [2] Such stenos are made from plant extracts impregnated in layers onto a cotton thread using latex. The Kshara (caustics) [3] applied on the thread are antiinflammatory, anti-slough agents and in addition, have chemical curetting properties. [1] The Ksharasutra remains in direct contact of the tract and, therefore, it physically and chemically curettes out the tract and sloughs out the epithelial lining, thereby allowing the fistulous tract to collapse and heal. Several modifications of this procedure are also reported. [4],[5]

The classical "lay open" technique for management of fistula in ano practiced currently, [6] involves laying open the fistula tract in entirety. Nevertheless, there are several modifications of this procedure. [7] Despite best efforts, the problems of recurrence and anal incontinence are high in the classical "lay open" method.

In our study, 54% of the patients were in the fourth decade and there was significant male predominance with a ratio of 6:1, which is consistent with other studies in India [1],[7],[8],[9] and worldwide. [10],[11] The relative distribution of inter-sphincteric and trans-sphincteric variety is also consistent with previous studies. [10],[12]

Although Ksharasutra can be performed without use of anesthesia, [13] however, during our study and by others [14] it was difficult to apply Ksharasutra without sedation, hence opted for regional (spinal or caudal) anesthesia during the procedure. Early postoperative pain was observed in both group; and it was found to be less in Ksharasutra group, however, some studies have reported higher pain with this approach. [15]

As Ksharasutra is a multistaged procedure, [1] patients need to come hospital every week, hence, the duration of treatment in the Ksharasutra group was significantly longer than fistulotomy group. Despite this the number of days, "off work" was less in case of Ksharasutra because the pain was less and there was no open wound in contrast to fistulotomy. Hence, patients following Ksharasutra procedure were able to join their work from the next day of the procedure and it didn't affect their normal activities.

Recurrences are common after fistulotomy with some reporting 8.47% of recurrence. [16] However, we observed 12.5% recurrence which may be due to relative smaller sample size in our study. The recurrence rate was only 3.8% in Ksharasutra group, which is consistent with previous reports. [1],[17]

Incontinence after fistulotomy is a very distressful problem both to patient and surgeon.[18],[19] For fistulae that traverse longer distances of sphincter, such as high trans-sphincteric or more proximal, fistulotomy conveys high rates of postoperative incontinence and alternative surgical treatments are necessary. For these "complex" fistulae, cutting Setons are used to slowly divide fistulous tissue tracts on the leading edge of the Seton while allowing healing to occur on the trailing edge thereby preserving sphincter continuity and preserving sphincter function. In our study, only three case of minor incontinence was seen, and there was one case of major incontinence found in fistulotomy group.

We concluded that treatment of fistula-in-ano by Ksharasutra is simple, easy, and safe. The chances of recurrence and anal incontinence are very low and most importantly, the cost of the treatment is very low. As it is an "ambulatory treatment" patient can join in their work very early. Hence, the application of Ksharasutra is a better option not only because it is cost effective but also due to lesser postoperative complications.

   References Top

Multicentric randomized controlled clinical trial of Kshaarasootra (Ayurvedic medicated thread) in the management of fistula-in-ano. Indian Council of Medical Research. Indian J Med Res 1991;94:177-85.  Back to cited text no. 1
Samhita S. Chikitsasthanam: Shlokas 29-33. 5 th ed., Ch. 17. Varanasi, India: Motilal Banarasi Das; 1975. p. 456.  Back to cited text no. 2
Gewali MB, Pilapitiya U, Hattori M, Namba T. Analysis of a thread used in the Kshara Sutra treatment in the Ayurvedic medicinal system. J Ethnopharmacol 1990;29:199-206.  Back to cited text no. 3
Corman ML. Classic articles in colon and rectal surgery. Hippocrates: on fistulae. Dis Colon Rectum 1980;23:56-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
Classic articles in colonic and rectal surgery. John Arderne 1307-1380(?). Treatises of fistula in ano. Dis Colon Rectum 1983;26:197-210.  Back to cited text no. 5
Perrin WS. President′s address: Some landmarks in the history of rectal surgery. Proc R Soc Med 1932;25:338-46.  Back to cited text no. 6
Jobst MA, Thorson AG. Anal sepsis and fistula. In: Yeo CJ, editor. Shackelford′s Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. 6 th ed., Vol. 2. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier; 2007. p. 2045-61.  Back to cited text no. 7
Misra MC, Kapur BM. A new non-operative approach to fistula in ano. Br J Surg 1988;75:1093-4.  Back to cited text no. 8
Shrivastava P, Sahu M. Efficacy of Kshar Sutra (medical seton) therapy in the management of fistula-in-ano. World J Colorectal Surg 2010;2:1-8.  Back to cited text no. 9
Sainio P, Husa A. Fistula-in-ano. Clinical features and long-term results of surgery in 199 adults. Acta Chir Scand 1985;151:169-76.  Back to cited text no. 10
Vasilevsky CA, Gordon PH. Results of treatment of fistula-in-ano. Dis Colon Rectum 1985;28:225-31.  Back to cited text no. 11
Raghavaiah NV. Anal fistula in India. Int Surg 1976;61:243-5.  Back to cited text no. 12
Deshpande PJ, Sharma KR. Treatment of fistula-in-ano by a new technique. Review and follow-up of 200 cases. Am J Proctol 1973;24:49-60.  Back to cited text no. 13
Kenji T, Takuji F, Shiqeru T, Mituyoshi S, Shiqemi K, Takakazu K, et al. Treatment of fistula in ano by a medicated thread (Kshara sutra) of chemical curette-review and follow-up study of 182 cases. Drug Deliv Syst 1992;7:209-15.  Back to cited text no. 14
Ho KS, Tsang C, Seow-Choen F, Ho YH, Tang CL, Heah SM, et al. Prospective randomised trial comparing ayurvedic cutting seton and fistulotomy for low fistula-in-ano. Tech Coloproctol 2001;5:137-41.  Back to cited text no. 15
Bennett RC. A review of the results of orthodox treatment for anal fistulae. Proc R Soc Med 1962;55:756-7.  Back to cited text no. 16
Deshpande PJ, Sharma KR, Sharma SK, Singh LM. Ambulatory treatment of fistula in ano, Results in 400 cases. Indian J Surg 1975;37:85-9.  Back to cited text no. 17
Williams JG, MacLeod CA, Rothenberger DA, Goldberg SM. Seton treatment of high anal fistulae. Br J Surg 1991;78:1159-61.  Back to cited text no. 18
Deshpande PJ, Pathak SN, Sharma BN, Singh LM. Treatment of fistula-in-ano by Ksharasutra. J Res Indian Med 1968;2:131-39.  Back to cited text no. 19


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]

This article has been cited by
Ya. P. Feleshtinsky,E. E. Born,O. O. Dyadik,A. V. Grigorovskaya,K. S. Kozlova
Bulletin of Problems Biology and Medicine. 2018; 1.2(143): 316
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Treatment of rats anal fistula with glycerin Aloe barbadensis Miller extract
Bruno Cabral Comparin,Carlos Henrique Marques dos Santos,Doroty Mesquita Dourado,Pâmela Micaela Gomes Reichel,Roberta Silva de Paola,Elenir Rose Jardim Cury Pontes
Journal of Coloproctology. 2018;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Challenges in integrating component level technology and system level information from Ayurveda: Insights from NMR phytometabolomics and anti-HIV potential of select Ayurvedic medicinal plants
Rama Jayasundar,Somenath Ghatak,Muzamil Ashraf Makhdoomi,Kalpana Luthra,Aruna Singh,Thirumurthy Velpandian
Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. 2018;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Draining Setons as Definitive Management of Fistula-in-Ano
Oluwatomilayo O. Daodu,Julia O’Keefe,John A. Heine
Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. 2018; 61(4): 499
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 S3-Leitlinie: Kryptoglanduläre Analfisteln
A. Ommer,A. Herold,E. Berg,S. Farke,A. Fürst,F. Hetzer,A. Köhler,S. Post,R. Ruppert,M. Sailer,T. Schiedeck,O. Schwandner,B. Strittmatter,B. H. Lenhard,W. Bader,S. Krege,H. Krammer,E. Stange
coloproctology. 2016;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
6 Is modern management of fistula-in-ano acceptable?
Frances Oldfield,Timothy Gilbert,Paul Skaife
British Journal of Hospital Medicine. 2016; 77(7): 388
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
    Materials and Me...
    Article Figures
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded312    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 6    

Recommend this journal