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Dis Colon Rectum. 1994 Mar;37(3):249-59.

Anterior rectocele: assessment with radiographic defecography, dynamic magnetic resonance imaging, and physical examination.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University Hospital Leiden, The Netherlands.



The aim of this study was to devise a measuring method for an anterior rectocele on standardized defecographies and magnetic resonance images (MRI) to quantify anterior rectocele and to test whether this could substantiate clinical decision making for operative treatment for anterior rectocele.


Quantitative analysis by the measuring method as proposed was compared with qualitative scores on defecographies and MRI from the same patients. Thirty-eight patients with symptoms compatible with an anterior rectocele were subjected to physical examination in the left decubitis position and supine position and to defecography. Findings on defecography were compared with findings on physical examination. Thirteen patients were examined before and after surgical correction of the anterior rectocele for a total of 51 qualitative and quantitative examinations. The group of operated patients was analyzed for treatment results. Nineteen controls were included.


Sixty-six radiographs of 33 defecographies were qualified in three grading classes and quantified with the proposed method by two observers. The mean measured value of the anterior rectocele in the three subjective grading classes is significantly different (P < 0.001). Anterior rectoceles qualified as severe had a measured value of 20 mm or more in 96 percent of the radiographs. Lower gradings were never > 20 mm. On MRI severe anterior rectoceles were not scored and measured values did not correlate with qualitative scores. When findings on physical examination were compared with defecographic measurement, the coefficient of correlation (r) between the radiologic assessment and clinical examination in the left decubitis position is r = 0.87, for the examination in the supine position, r = 0.77. All 15 cases scored as severe anterior rectocele in the left decubitis position had a measured anterior rectocele of > or = 20 mm. In the 13 cases that received surgery, there was a significant reduction of the anterior rectocele (P < 0.001) and clinical improvement. Patients with small or moderate anterior rectocele on physical examination with a size > or = 20 mm on defecography were cured by surgical correction. None of the controls had an anterior rectocele on physical examination or an anterior rectocele > or = 20 mm on defecography.


An anterior rectocele with a size of 20 mm or more corresponds with a qualitative score of "severe" on radiographic defecography. Physical examination for anterior rectocele in the left decubitis position corresponds best with quantitative radiographic assessment and anterior rectocele with a size > or = 20 mm on defecography is pathologic. Patients with complaints compatible with anterior rectocele can be assessed in objective and quantitative terms by radiography and can be successfully surgically treated, even if at physical examination the anterior rectocele is not classified as large, provided that dynamic defecography shows an anterior rectocele of > or = 20 mm. The potential of dynamic MRI with regard to anterior rectoceles presently seems absent.

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