Chronic colorectal motility disorders are commonly encountered in the pediatric population. While most cases can be managed successfully by conservative therapy, a subgroup of patients suffers from severe constipation and requires further diagnostic procedures to identify the underlying pathologies, such as aganglionosis, hypoganglionosis or intestinal neuronal dysplasia (IND). The present study provides reference data about the quantitative distribution of nerve cells and ganglia within the submucosal plexus of the human anorectum from healthy subjects. Anorectal specimens (n = 15) obtained postmortem were divided into 6 segments beginning from the dentate line (S1 = 0-2 cm, S2 = 2-4 cm, S3 = 4-6 cm, S4 = 6-8 cm, S5 = 8-10 cm, S6 = 10-12 cm). From each segment sections (6 μm thickness) were immunostained with a pan-neuronal marker (Protein Gene Product 9.5) to visualize the enteric nervous system. A morphometric analysis was carried out for each segment recording the number of ganglia and nerve cells of the submucous plexus. Neither ganglia nor nerve cells showed a uniform distribution pattern, but decreased continuously towards the anus. However, even the lowest segments (S1, S2) contained nerve cells and were not aganglionic. In the remaining segments ganglia with 7 or more nerve cells could be detected. The findings demonstrate segment-specific quantitative differences of the anorectal submucous plexus which should be taken into consideration for the histopathologic evaluation of rectal biopsies. Moreover, the data support the concept of a physiologic hypoganglionosis of the anal canal.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)