Archived Policies - Surgery

Plugs for Fistula Repair


Effective Date:04-15-2016

End Date:04-14-2017


Biosynthetic fistula plugs, including plugs made of porcine small intestine submucosa or of synthetic material, are considered experimental, investigational and/or unproven for all indications including, but not limited to, repair of anal fistulas.


An anal fistula is an abnormal communication between the interior of the anal canal or rectum and the skin surface. Rarer forms may communicate with the vagina or other pelvic structures, including the bowel. Most fistulas begin as anorectal abscesses, which are thought to arise from infection in the glands around the anal canal. When the abscess opens spontaneously into the anal canal (or has been opened surgically), a fistula may occur. Studies have reported that 26% to 37% of cases of perianal abscesses eventually form anal fistulas. (1)

Other causes of fistulas include tuberculosis, cancer, prior radiotherapy, and inflammatory bowel disease. Fistulas may occur singly or in multiples. Symptoms include a purulent discharge and drainage of pus and/or stool near the anus, which can irritate the outer tissues causing itching and discomfort. Pain occurs when fistulas become blocked and abscesses recur. Flatus may also escape from the fistulous tract.

The most widely used classification of anal fistulas is the Parks classification system, which defines anal fistulas by their position relative to the anal sphincter as transsphincteric, intersphincteric, suprasphincteric, or extrasphincteric. More simply, anal fistulas are described as low (present distally and not extending up to the anorectal sling) or high (extending up to or beyond the anorectal sling). Repair of high fistulas can be associated with incontinence. Diagnosis may involve a fistula probe, anoscopy, fistulography, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Fistula Repair

Treatment is aimed at repairing the fistula without compromising continence.

Surgical treatments for anal fistulas include fistulotomy/fistulectomy, endorectal/anal sliding flaps, ligation of the intersphincteric fistula tract (LIFT) technique, seton drain, and fibrin glue. Fistulotomy involves division of the tissue over the fistula and laying open of the fistula tract. Although fistulotomies are widely used for low fistulas, lay-open fistulotomies in high fistulas carries the risk of incontinence. A seton is a thread placed through the fistula tract for the purpose of draining fistula material and preventing the development of a perianal infection. Draining setons can control sepsis, but few patients heal after removal of the seton, and the procedure is poorly tolerated long-term. A “cutting seton” refers to the process of regular tightening of the seton to encourage gradual cutting of the sphincteric muscle with subsequent inflammation and fibrosis. Cutting setons can cause continence disturbances. Endorectal advancement flaps involve the advancement of a full or partial thickness flap of the proximal rectal wall over the internal (rectal) opening of the fistula tract. The LIFT technique involves identifying the intersphincteric plane and then dividing the fistula tract; its use has been reported in small studies, but long-term follow-up is unavailable. (2) Fibrin glue is a combination of fibrinogen, thrombin, and calcium in a matrix, which is injected into the fistula track. The glue induces clot formation within the tract, which is then closed through overgrowth of new tissue.

Fistula Plugs

Fistula plugs are designed to provide a structure that acts as a scaffold for new tissue growth. The scaffold, which can be derived from animal (e.g., porcine) tissue or a synthetic copolymer fiber, is degraded by hydrolytic or enzymatic pathways as healing progresses. The plug is pulled through the fistula tract and secured at the fistula’s proximal opening; the fistula tract is left open at the distal opening to allow drainage. Several fistula plugs have been cleared for marketing by the United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (see Regulatory Status section). A fistula plug derived from autologous cartilage tissue has been investigated in a small (n=10) pilot study. (3)

Regulatory Status

Several plugs for fistula repair have received clearance for marketing from the U.S. FDA through the 510(k) process and are outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Devices for Anal Fistula Repair





Predicate Device(s)

FDA Product Code

SIS Fistula Plug

(Cook Biotech)



Manufactured from porcine SIS

Repair of anal, rectal, and entero-cutaneous fistulas

SURGISIS® Soft Tissue Graft (Cook Biotech)

STRATASIS® Urethral Sling (Cook Biotech)


Surgisis RVP Recto-Vaginal Fistula Plug

(Cook Biotech)



Manufactured from porcine SIS

Tapered configuration with a button to provide increased plug blockage of the fistula

Reinforce soft tissue for repair of rectovaginal fistulas

SIS Fistula Plug (Cook Biotech)


Surgisis Biodesign Enterocutaneous Fistula Plug

(Cook Biotech)



Manufactured from porcine SIS

Tapered configuration with a flange to provide increased retention of the plug and improved blockage of the fistula

Reinforce soft tissue for repair of entero-cutaneous fistulas

SIS Fistula Plug (Cook Biotech)


Gore Bio-A Fistula Plug

(W.L. Gore & Assoc.)



Manufactured from bioabsorb-able PGA:TMC copolymer

Supplied in a 3-dimensional configuration of a disk with attached tubes

Reinforce soft tissue for repair of anorectal fistulas

Gore Bioabsorb-able Mesh (W.L. Gore & Assoc.)

SIS Fistula Plug (Cook Biotech)


FDA: Food and Drug Administration; PGA:TMC; polyglycolide-co-trimethylene carbonate; SIS: small intestinal submucosa


This policy was created in 2007 and regularly updated with searches of the MEDLINE database. The most recent literature review was performed for the period through July 30, 2015.

Conventional treatments for anal fistulas include fistulotomy/fistulectomy, endorectal/anal sliding flaps, seton drains, and fibrin glue. Evidence for new treatments must allow comparison with conventional treatment on outcomes including symptoms, change in disease status, morbid events, functional outcomes (i.e., sphincter function), and treatment-related morbidity (i.e., fistula recurrence).

Anal Fistulas

Systematic Reviews

At least 6 systematic reviews have been undertaken on anal fistula plug (AFP). In 2013, Cirocchi et al. published results of a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that compared biologically derived products for fistula repair, including fibrin glue, AFPs, and acellular dermal matrix, with surgical therapy for fistula repair. (4) Seven studies were eligible for their evidence review, 4 of which included comparisons of AFPs with surgery, and 2 of which were randomized controlled trials (RCTs; Ortiz, 2009, and van Koperen, 2011, are described in the RCT section). In combined analysis, AFP placement did not differ significantly from surgical treatment in terms of rates of healing (pooled risk ratio, 1.19; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.51 to 2.76). Recurrence of anal fistulas did not differ significantly between patients treated with AFP and those treated with surgery, although the confidence interval for the pooled analysis was very wide (pooled odds ratio [OR], 3.12; 95% CI, 0.52 to 18.83).

In 2012, 3 reviews were published comparing AFP with conventional surgical treatment for anal fistulas. (5-7) Pu et al. undertook a meta-analysis of 5 studies (2 RCTs, 3 retrospective studies) published through April 2012. Treatment options in the conventional arm of this review included endorectal/mucosal advancement flaps, fibrin glue, and seton drains. (5) The 2 RCTs included in this analysis (Ortiz, 2009; van Koperen, 2011) are described in the RCT section. On combined analysis, AFP patients had a higher recurrence rate (62%) than those undergoing conventional treatment options (47%) after 3-month follow- up (5 studies, 428 patients; p=0.004, OR=1.91; 95% CI, 1.23 to 2.97).

Leng and Jin undertook a meta-analysis of 6 studies published through April 2011 (3 RCTs, 2 retrospective studies, 1 cohort study) involving 408 patients comparing AFP with mucosal advancement flap (MAF). (6) Two of the RCTs in this analysis were included by Pu et al. (previously described); the third RCT was a Chinese trial of 90 patients comparing AFP (manufactured in China with design similar to the SURGISIS®) with the MAF. On combined analysis, the differences in the overall success rates (6 studies) and incidence of fistula recurrence (4 studies including 3 RCTs) were not statistically significant between the AFP and the MAF (risk difference [RD], -0.12; 95% CI, -0.39 to 0.14; RD=0.13; 95% CI, -0.18 to 0.43, respectively). (6) The risk of continence postoperatively (3 studies including 2 RCTs), however, was reported to be lower with AFP (RD = -0.08; 95% CI, 0.15 to -0.02). In addition to the small numbers of controlled studies and limited follow-ups, the findings of this meta-analysis were further limited by significant heterogeneity across studies. (6)

O’Riordan et al. undertook a systematic review of AFP (20 studies including the RCTs by Ortiz and van Koperan) for patients with Crohn and non-Crohn-related anal fistulas. (7) The follow-up period across studies ranged from 3 to 24.5 months. The pooled proportion of patients achieving fistula closure in those with non-Crohn anal fistula was 0.54 (95% CI, 0.50 to 0.59). The proportion achieving closure in those with Crohn disease was similar (0.55; 95% CI, 0.39 to 0.70). (7) There were no reported cases of any significant change in continence after AFP insertion in any of the study patients (N=196). The findings of this systematic review are limited by the variability of operative technique and perioperative care across studies, which may influence the probability of success or failure associated with the AFP. (7)

A 2010 systematic review reported a wide range of success rates. (8) In the 12 case series included in the review, reported success rates for the AFP procedure ranged from 24% to 92%. Success rates in treating complex fistula-in-ano in the 8 prospective studies reviewed were 35% to 87%. The complications of abscess formation and/or sepsis ranged from 4% to 29%, and plug extrusion ranged from 4% to 41%.

In a Cochrane review of surgical intervention for anorectal fistula, Jacob et al. found few randomized trials comparing procedures for surgical repair. (9) Anal fistula plug was 1 procedure noted as needing further study with randomized trials.

Section Summary: Systematic Reviews of AFPs

Several systematic reviews of studies of AFP repair of anal fistulas demonstrated a wide range of success rates and heterogeneity in study results. The net benefit of a strategy using AFP compared with open surgical repair is unknown given a lack of high-quality trials and uncertainty related to the tradeoff between a less invasive procedure and a higher fistula reoccurrence rate.

Randomized Controlled Trials

Ortiz et al. compared use of porcine submucosal (Surgisis) AFP with an endorectal anal flap (ERAF) procedure in an RCT with of 43 patients with high anal fistula. (10) The primary end point was fistula healing. Recurrence was defined as the presence of an abscess in the same area or obvious evidence of fistulization. Five patients in the AFP group and 6 in the ERAF group did not receive the allocated intervention, leaving 32 patients. One patient in the AFP group was lost to follow-up. A large number of fistula recurrences in the fistula plug group led to premature closure of the trial. After 1 year, fistula recurrence was seen in 12 of 15 patients treated with an AFP versus 2 of 16 patients who underwent the flap procedure (relative risk [RR], 6.40; 95% CI, 1.70 to 23.97; p<0.001). Fistulas recurred in 9 of 16 patients who had previously undergone fistula surgery and 8 of the 9 patients who had an AFP. A trend for more sphincter involvement and more females in the ERAF group was noted. Complications were not reported in this article.

Van Koperen et al. reported on a double-blinded, multicenter, randomized trial comparing AFP with mucosal advancement flap in 60 patients with high perianal fistulas. (11) At 11-month follow-up, trialists reported fistula recurrence in 22 patients (71%) in the AFP group and 15 patients (52%) in the advancement flap group; these rates did not differ significantly (p=0.126). Postoperative pain scores, quality of life after surgery, and functional outcomes did not differ significantly between groups. Despite disappointing results, trialists indicated the plug might be considered as an initial treatment option because the plug procedure is simple and minimally invasive.

Section Summary: RCTs of AFPs

Two relatively small RCTs have compared AFP with surgical flap treatment for anal fistulas, one of which reported significantly higher rates of fistula recurrence with AFP while the other found similar rates of recurrence between AFP and surgical treatment. Larger RCTs are needed, with longer follow-up, to determine comparative efficacy of AFPs and surgical repair.

Nonrandomized Comparative Studies

A number of nonrandomized studies have compared AFP with various alternative treatments for anal fistula. In one of the larger, prospective studies, Hyman et al. reported on outcomes data for a variety of procedures to treat anal fistulas in 245 patients at 13 hospitals. (12) Data were collected as part of a prospective, multicenter outcomes registry created by colorectal surgeons in parts of New England. Fistulotomy was the most frequently performed procedure (n=120), followed by fistula plug (n=43), staged fistulotomy (n=36), seton drain only (n=21), cutting seton (n=13), fibrin glue (n=5), and advancement flap (n=4). Three other patients were listed as other or unrecorded. At 1 month and 3 months, 19.5% and 63.2% of patients were healed, respectively. At 3 months, 32% of fistula plug patients were healed compared with 87% of fistulotomy, 50% of staged fistulotomy, and 5% of seton drain-only patients. The authors noted limitations to this registry-based study, including concerns about data entry, lack of standardized surgical procedures, and heterogeneity of patients. The 3-month results may also indicate longer healing times may be needed.

Hall et al. reported results from another larger study on a multicenter registry of prospectively collected data for 240 surgeries for anal fistula, including those conducted with AFPs.(13) Rates of utilization of fistulotomy, ligation of the intersphincteric fistula tract (LIFT) technique , advancement flap, AFP placement, draining seton, and cutting seton were 61%, 18%, 6.3%, 4.2%, 8.3%, and 0.83%, respectively. The healing rate for patients treated with AFPs was 20% (95% CI, 5% to 50%) compared with 95% after fistulotomy (95% CI, 89% to 97%), 79% after LIFT technique (95% CI, 65% to 88%), 100% after cutting seton placement (95% CI, 34% to 100%), and 60% after endorectal advancement flap (95% CI, 33% to 77%).

Several smaller or retrospective studies have also compared AFP and alternative treatments. Fisher et al. reported results of a retrospective study evaluating success rates after AFP (n=31) or endorectal advancement flap (n=40) in patients with anal fistula treated at a single institution from 2007 to 2012. (14) For patients treated after May 2007, the Surgisis anal fistula plug was available. More patients treated with AFP had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (29.0% vs 5.0%; p=0.008). During follow-up, 12 (39%) patients treated with AFP and 17 (43%) treated with endorectal advancement flap had fistula recurrence (OR=0.94; 95% CI, 0.32 to 2.72; p=1.00). Rates of complications did not differ significantly between groups.

Christoforidis et al. performed a retrospective analysis of patients from a U.S. center with transsphincteric fistulas treated with ERAF (n=43) or anal plug (Surgisis) (n=37) between January 1996 and April 2007. (15) Success was defined as closed external opening in absence of symptoms at minimal follow-up of 6 months. The success rate was 63% in the ERAF group and 32% in the in AFP group after a mean follow-up of 56 months (range, 6-136 months) for ERAF and 14 months (range, 6-22 months) for AFP. After exclusion of patients with early AFP extrusion, which may be considered a technical failure, the ERAF advantage did not meet statistical significance (p=0.06). Twenty-three of 27 patients who had ERAF and 7 of 12 patients who had AFP responded to a questionnaire addressing functional outcomes. In the ERAF group, 11 of 23 patients had no continence disturbance versus 6 of 7 in the AFP group. The lack of prospectively collected incontinence scores before the procedure and low response rate in the AFP group prohibit valid comparisons on functional outcomes. Complication rates were low in both groups; 2 patients in the ERAF group required reoperation for bleeding. No serious complications occurred in the AFP group. The authors concluded that “randomized trials are needed to further elucidate the efficacy and potential functional benefit of AFP in the treatment of complex anal fistulas.”

Wang et al. compared outcomes of patients with transsphincteric fistulas treated with AFP from July 2005 to December 2006 (n=29) with historical controls treated with ERAF (2001-2005) (n=26). (16) Of 26 initial flap procedures, 10 failed and 16 healed. Of 29 initial plug procedures, 19 failed and 10 healed. In total, 30 advancement flaps and 34 plug procedures were performed (including the additional treatments for failed initial procedures). Closure rates were 34% for plugs (mean follow-up, 279 days; range, 110-690 days) and 62% for flaps (median follow-up, 819 days; range, 93-1928 days; p=0.045). Complications were not reported. The authors concluded that a systematic randomized trial with long-term follow-up comparing advancement flaps with fistula plugs is needed, and they calculated that 112 patients would need to be randomized to detect a statistically significant difference in success rates for each procedure. Because the fistula plugs are costly, the authors recommended that cost-benefit analysis be performed.

A retrospective study of 232 patients treated in Canada between 1997 and 2008 using various methods for high transsphincteric anal fistulas was reported by Chung et al. (17) Postoperative healing rates at the 12-week follow-up for the fistula plug, fibrin glue, flap advancement, and seton drain groups were 59.3%, 39.1%, 60.4%, and 32.6%, respectively. The authors concluded that closure of the primary fistula opening using a biologic AFP and anal flap advancement resulted in similar fistula healing rates in patients with high transsphincteric fistulas and that these strategies were superior to seton placement and fibrin glue, stating: “Given the low morbidity and relative simplicity of the procedure, the anal fistula plug is a viable alternative treatment for patients with high trans-sphincteric anal fistulas.” The 12-week follow-up time in this study is likely too short to evaluate the durability of treatment.

Section Summary: Nonrandomized Comparative Studies of AFPs

Nonrandomized comparative studies have reported variability in rates of healing after AFP use compared with other fistula closure methods. These studies are limited by patient heterogeneity and generally relatively short-term follow-up.

Noncomparative Studies

Stamos et al. prospectively evaluated healing rates after treatment with a bioabsorbable AFP among 93 patients with complex transsphincteric anal fistulas. (18) Seventy-three patients (78%) also received draining setons preoperatively at the surgeon’s discretion. Over the 1-year follow-up, 13 patients were lost to follow-up and 21 patients withdrew, most often for an alternative treatment. Of the 66 patients examined 6 months after plug implantation, 30 had a healed fistula. Of the 55 patients examined 12 months after plug implantation, 36 had a healed fistula, but plug implantation failed in 18 patients before the 12-month visit. Overall continence scores improved from baseline (presurgery) to 6 months postsurgery.

Blom et al. reported results from a retrospective analysis of outcomes after AFP placement (with the Biodesign plug) at 4 hospitals. (19) They identified 126 patients who underwent AFP placement and were followed over a median of 13 months (range, 1-7 months). At the time of the last assessment, 30 of 126 patients (24%) had no symptoms indicative of fistula (pain at the fistula site or drainage). Anterior fistulas were less likely to have successful closure (12%) than posterior (32%) or lateral (41%) fistulas.

Cintron et al. reported results from a prospective evaluation of patients who received a porcine AFP (Surgisis AFP) for anorectal fistulas of various etiologies. (20) Patients were offered participation in the study, although it is not noted how many were approached to participate. Seventy-eight plugs were inserted in 73 patients, with 7 plug fallouts (9.6% patient fallout rate). There were 45 treatment failures at a mean follow-up of 15 months (61.6% patient failure rate). The authors noted that prior series of AFPs reported a wide range in success rates from 24% to 88%.

Tan et al. reported results from a prospective study with longer term follow-up (median, 59 weeks) of patients who received the Surgisis AFP for anal fistulas thought to result from cryptoglandular abscesses. (21) Twenty-six patients with 30 fistulas were included. Most fistulas (86.7%) were transsphincteric. At last follow-up, 26 fistulas (86.7%) had recurred.

Section Summary: Noncomparative Studies of AFPs

Several relatively small, noncomparative studies evaluating outcomes after AFP have demonstrated a range of fistula recurrence rates postprocedure. These types of studies provide limited information about the relative performance of AFP compared with standard treatments for anal fistulas.

Other Types of Fistulas

Other studies have reported treatment of very small numbers of patients with rectovaginal fistulas, endoscopic treatment of postoperative enterocutaneous fistulas after bariatric surgery, colocutaneous fistulas, and recurrent tracheoesophageal fistulas treated with a fistula plug. (22-27)

Ongoing and Unpublished Clinical Trials

Some currently unpublished trials that might influence this policy are listed in Table 2.

Table 2. Summary of Key Trials

NCT Number

Trial Name

Planned Enrollment

Completion Date



Comparison of Anal Fistula Treatment Outcome - Collagen Plug vs Advancement Flap Surgery. A Randomised Prospective Blinded Multi-centre Study


Dec 2016



Ligation of Intersphincteric Fistula Tract (LIFT) Versus LIFT-plug Procedure for Anal Fistula Repair: a Multicenter, Randomized, Open-label, Parallel Controlled Trial


Nov 2013

(last verified 2013)


A Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Surgisis AFP to Advancement Flap for the Repair of Anal Fistulas




Surgisis® anal fistula plug versus surgeon’s preference (advancement flap, fistulotomy, cutting seton) for transsphincteric fistula-in-ano: a multicenter phase III randomised controlled trial



NCT: national clinical trial.

a Denotes industry-sponsored or cosponsored trial

Summary of Evidence

The evidence for the use of anal fistula plug (AFP) placement for the treatment of individuals with anal fistulas includes 2 randomized comparative trials (RCTs), a number of comparative and noncomparative nonrandomized studies, and systematic reviews of these studies. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, change in disease status, morbid events, functional outcomes, and treatment-related morbidity. The 2 available RCTs comparing AFP with surgical flap treatment reported disparate findings: one reported significantly higher rates of fistula reoccurrence with AFP; the other found similar rates of reoccurrence between AFP and surgical treatment. Systematic reviews of studies of AFP repair of anal fistulas demonstrate a wide range of success rates and heterogeneity in study results. The body of evidence consists of RCTs and nonrandomized studies that have conflicting results. Additionally, the evidence to support the use of fistula plugs to treat other types of fistulas is insufficient.

Based on the limited data available and inconsistent outcomes reported, the impact on net health outcome is not known. Therefore, the use of fistula plugs is considered experimental, investigational and/or unproven.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

The 2011 Practice Parameters for the Treatment of Perianal Abscess and Fistula-in-Ano from the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons gives treatment with an anal fistula plug for complex anal fistulas a weak recommendation. The guidelines note the available evidence is of moderate quality, with success rates of less than 50% in the majority of studies. (28)

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published an updated guidance on the suturable bioprosthetic plug in November 2011. (29) NICE determined that while there are no major safety concerns, evidence on the efficacy of the procedure is not adequate for it to be used without special arrangements for consent, audit, or research. Further, clinicians wanting to perform the procedure are encouraged to enroll patients into the Fistula-In-Ano Trial (FIAT) (available online at: If the clinician chooses to perform the procedure outside of a clinical trial, the clinician should inform the clinical governance leads in their trust, ensure that patients understand the uncertainty of the procedure’s efficacy, and provide patients with clear written information (NICE recommends the information it developed for patients be provided) and audit and review clinical outcomes.


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Disclaimer for coding information on Medical Policies

Procedure and diagnosis codes on Medical Policy documents are included only as a general reference tool for each policy. They may not be all-inclusive.

The presence or absence of procedure, service, supply, device or diagnosis codes in a Medical Policy document has no relevance for determination of benefit coverage for members or reimbursement for providers. Only the written coverage position in a medical policy should be used for such determinations.

Benefit coverage determinations based on written Medical Policy coverage positions must include review of the member’s benefit contract or Summary Plan Description (SPD) for defined coverage vs. non-coverage, benefit exclusions, and benefit limitations such as dollar or duration caps.


The following codes may be applicable to this Medical policy and may not be all inclusive.

CPT Codes

43305, 43312, 44640, 46707, 57300, 57305, 57307, 57308



ICD-9 Diagnosis Codes

Refer to the ICD-9-CM manual

ICD-9 Procedure Codes

Refer to the ICD-9-CM manual

ICD-10 Diagnosis Codes

Refer to the ICD-10-CM manual

ICD-10 Procedure Codes

Refer to the ICD-10-CM manual

Medicare Coverage:

The information contained in this section is for informational purposes only. HCSC makes no representation as to the accuracy of this information. It is not to be used for claims adjudication for HCSC Plans.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) does not have a national Medicare coverage position. Coverage may be subject to local carrier discretion.

A national coverage position for Medicare may have been developed since this medical policy document was written. See Medicare's National Coverage at <>.


1. Simpson JA, Banerjea A, Scholefield JH. Management of anal fistula. BMJ. 2012; 345:e6705. PMID 23069597

2. Campbell ML, Abboud EC, Dolberg ME, et al. Treatment of refractory perianal fistulas with ligation of the intersphincteric fistula tract: preliminary results. Am Surg. Jul 2013; 79(7):723-727. PMID 23816007

3. Ozturk E. Treatment of recurrent anal fistula using an autologous cartilage plug: a pilot study. Tech Coloproctol. May 2015; 19(5):301-307. PMID 25850629

4. Cirocchi R, Trastulli S, Morelli U, et al. The treatment of anal fistulas with biologically derived products: is innovation better than conventional surgical treatment? An update. Tech Coloproctol. Jun 2013; 17(3):259-273. PMID 23207714

5. Pu YW, Xing CG, Khan I et al. Fistula plug versus conventional surgical treatment for anal fistulas. A system review and meta-analysis. Saudi Med J 2012; 33(9):962-6. PMID 22964807

6. Leng Q, Jin HY. Anal fistula plug vs mucosa advancement flap in complex fistula-in-ano: A meta-analysis. World J Gastrointest Surg 2012; 4(11):256-61. PMID 23494149

7. O'Riordan JM, Datta I, Johnston C et al. A systematic review of the anal fistula plug for patients with Crohn's and non-Crohn's related fistula-in-ano. Dis Colon Rectum 2012; 55(3):351-8. PMID 22469804

8. Garg P, Song J, Bhatia A et al. The efficacy of anal fistula plug in fistula-in-ano: a systematic review. Colorectal Dis 2010; 12(10):965-70. PMID 19438881

9. Jacob TJ, Perakath B, Keighley MR. Surgical intervention for anorectal fistula. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010; (5):CD006319. PMID 20464741

10. Ortiz H, Marzo J, Ciga MA et al. Randomized clinical trial of anal fistula plug versus endorectal advancement flap for the treatment of high cryptoglandular fistula in ano. Br J Surg 2009; 96(6):608-12. PMID 19402190

11. van Koperen PJ, Bemelman WA, Gerhards MF et al. The anal fistula plug treatment compared with the mucosal advancement flap for cryptoglandular high transsphincteric perianal fistula: a double-blinded multicenter randomized trial. Dis Colon Rectum 2011; 54(4):387-93. PMID 21383557

12. Hyman N, O'Brien S, Osler T. Outcomes after fistulotomy: results of a prospective, multicenter regional study. Dis Colon Rectum 2009; 52(12):2022-7. PMID 19934925

13. Hall JF, Bordeianou L, Hyman N, et al. Outcomes after operations for anal fistula: results of a prospective, multicenter, regional study. Dis Colon Rectum. Nov 2014; 57(11):1304-1308. PMID 25285698

14. Fisher OM, Raptis DA, Vetter D, et al. An outcome and cost analysis of anal fistula plug insertion vs endorectal advancement flap for complex anal fistulae. Colorectal Dis. Jul 2015; 17(7):619-626. PMID 25641401

15. Christoforidis D, Pieh MC, Madoff RD et al. Treatment of transsphincteric anal fistulas by endorectal advancement flap or collagen fistula plug: a comparative study. Dis Colon Rectum 2009; 52(1):18-22. PMID 19273951

16. Wang JY, Garcia-Aguilar J, Sternberg JA et al. Treatment of transsphincteric anal fistulas: are fistula plugs an acceptable alternative? Dis Colon Rectum 2009; 52(4):692-7. PMID 19404076

17. Chung W, Kazemi P, Ko D et al. Anal fistula plug and fibrin glue versus conventional treatment in repair of complex anal fistulas. Am J Surg 2009; 197(5):604-8. PMID 19393353

18. Stamos MJ, Snyder M, Robb BW, et al. Prospective multicenter study of a synthetic bioabsorbable anal fistula plug to treat cryptoglandular transsphincteric anal fistulas. Dis Colon Rectum. Mar 2015; 58(3):344-351. PMID 25664714

19. Blom J, Husberg-Sellberg B, Lindelius A, et al. Results of collagen plug occlusion of anal fistula: a multicentre study of 126 patients. Colorectal Dis. Aug 2014; 16(8):626-630. PMID 24506192

20. Cintron JR, Abcarian H, Chaudhry V, et al. Treatment of fistula-in-ano using a porcine small intestinal submucosa anal fistula plug. Tech Coloproctol. Apr 2013; 17(2):187-191. PMID 23053440

21. Tan KK, Kaur G, Byrne CM, et al. Long-term outcome of the anal fistula plug for anal fistula of cryptoglandular origin. Colorectal Dis. Dec 2013; 15(12):1510-1514. PMID 23981140

22. Gonsalves S, Sagar P, Lengyel J et al. Assessment of the efficacy of the rectovaginal button fistula plug for the treatment of ileal pouch-vaginal and rectovaginal fistulas. Dis Colon Rectum. Nov 2009; 52(11):1877-81. PMID 19966636

23. Gajsek U, et al. Long-term efficacy of the button fistula plug in the treatment of ileal pouch-vaginal and Crohn’s-related rectovaginal fistulas. Dis Colon Rectum. Aug 2011; 54(8):999-1002. PMID 21730789

24. Toussaint E, et al. Endoscopic treatment of postoperative enterocutaneous fistulas after bariatric surgery with the use of a fistula plug: report of five cases. Endoscopy. June 2009; 41(6):560-563. PMID 19533563

25. Vallejo E, et al. Percutaneous treatment of a duodenocutaneous high-flow fistula using a new biological plug. Diagn Interv Radiol. May-June 2015; 21(3):247-251. PMID 25835076

26. Miranda LE, et al. A low-output colocutaneous fistula healed by Surgisis anal plug. Tech Coloproctol. Dec 2009; 13(4):315-316. PMID 19652908

27. Truong S, et al. Results after endoscopic treatment of postoperative upper gastrointestinal fistulas and leaks using combined Vicryl plug and fibrin glue. Surg Endosc. July 2004; 18(7):1105-1108. PMID 15156390

28. Steele SR, Kumar R, Feingold DL et al. Practice parameters for the management of perianal abscess and fistula-in-ano. Dis Colon Rectum 2011; 54(12):1465-74. PMID 22067173

29. National Institutes for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Closure of anal fistula using a suturable bioprosthetic plug. November 2011. Available online at: <>. Last accessed July 13, 2015.

30. Plugs for Fistula Repair. Chicago, Illinois: Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Medical Policy Reference Manual. (September 2015). Surgery 7.01.123.

Policy History:

Date Reason
4/15/2016 Document updated with literature review. Coverage unchanged.
4/15/2015 Reviewed. No changes.
1/1/2014 Document updated with literature review. Coverage unchanged. CPT/HCPCS code(s) updated.
8/15/2011 Document updated with literature review. Coverage language changed as follows: Biosynthetic fistula plugs, including plugs made of porcine small intestine submucosa or of synthetic material are considered experimental, investigational and unproven for all indications including, but not limited to, repair of anal and rectal fistulas. Complete revision of description and rationale. Codes updated.
5/1/2009 Revised/updated entire document
2/15/2007 New medical document

Archived Document(s):

Title:Effective Date:End Date:
Plugs for Fistula Repair07-15-201803-31-2019
Plugs for Fistula Repair04-15-201707-14-2018
Plugs for Fistula Repair04-15-201604-14-2017
Plugs for Fistula Repair04-15-201504-14-2016
Plugs for Fistula Repair01-01-201404-14-2015
Plugs for Fistula Repair08-15-201112-31-2013
Anorectal Fistula Repair Using an Acellular Xenogeneic Plug05-01-200908-14-2011
Anorectal Fistula Repair Using an Acellular Xenogeneic Plug02-15-200704-30-2009
Anorectal Fistula Repair using an Acellular Xenogeneic Plug01-01-200702-14-2007
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