Anal fistula management has long been a challenge for surgeons. Presently, no technique exists that is ideal for treating all types of anal fistula, whether simple or complex. A higher incidence of poor sphincter function and recurrence after surgery has encouraged the development of a new sphincter-sparing procedure, ligation of the intersphincteric fistula tract (LIFT), first described by Van der Hagen et al. in 2006. We assessed the safety, feasibility, success rate, and continence of LIFT as a sphincter-saving procedure. A literature search of articles in electronic databases published from January 2006 to August 2012 was performed. Analysis followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews recommendations. All LIFT-related articles published in the English language were included. We excluded case reports, abstracts, letters, non-English language articles, and comments. The procedure was described in detail as reported by Rojanasakul. Thirteen original studies, including 435 patients, were reviewed. The most common fistula procedure type was transsphincteric (92.64 %). The overall median operative time was 39 (±20.16) min. Eight authors performed LIFT as a same-day surgery, whereas the others admitted patients to the hospital, with an overall median stay of 1.25 days (range 1-5 days). Postoperative complications occurred in 1.88 % of patients. All patients remained continent postoperatively. The overall mean length of follow-up was 33.92 (±17.0) weeks. The overall mean healing rate was 81.37 (±16.35) % with an overall mean healing period of 8.15 (±5.96) weeks. Fistula recurrence occurred in 7.58 % of patients. LIFT represents a new, easy-to-learn, and inexpensive sphincter-sparing procedure that provides reasonable results. LIFT is safe and feasible, with favorable short- and long-term outcomes. However, additional prospective randomized studies are required to confirm these findings.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes