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Dis Colon Rectum. 2000 Jun;43(6):752-8.

Functional and quality-of-life outcomes in patients with rectal cancer after combined modality therapy, intraoperative radiation therapy, and sphincter preservation.

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Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.



Locally advanced primary and recurrent rectal cancers treated with external beam radiation therapy, intraoperative radiation therapy, and chemotherapy represent a complex group of patients in the setting of extensive pelvic surgery and sphincter preservation. We sought to define functional outcome and quality of life in this subset of patients.


We retrospectively reviewed our experience with locally advanced primary and recurrent rectal cancer patients who underwent intraoperative radiation therapy with either low anterior resection (n = 12) or coloanal anastomosis (n = 6) between 1991 and 1998. Current functional outcome and quality of life were evaluated by a detailed questionnaire.


Median time from operation to assessment was 24 (range, 6-93) months. Using a standardized Sphincter Function Scale, incorporating the number of bowel movements per day and degree of incontinence, patients were graded as poor, fair, good, or excellent function. Of all patients, 56 percent reported unfavorable (poor or fair) function. Of the subset of patients with coloanal anastomosis or very low low anterior resection, 88 percent had unfavorable function as compared with 30 percent with standard low anterior resection. (P = 0.02; Fisher's exact probability test). A quality-of-life satisfaction score based on social, professional, and recreational restrictions demonstrated 56 percent of patients to be dissatisfied with their bowel function.


The majority of patients with advanced rectal cancers who require external beam radiation therapy, extensive pelvic surgery, and intraoperative radiation therapy report unfavorable functional and quality-of-life outcomes after sphincter preservation. In this setting patients being considered for coloanal anastomosis or very low anterior resection may be better served by permanent diversion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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