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Dis Colon Rectum. 2009 Sep;52(9):1605-9. doi: 10.1007/DCR.0b013e3181afbe3a.

Oral vitamin A enhances the effectiveness of formalin 8% in treating chronic hemorrhagic radiation proctopathy.

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Department of Surgery, Providence Hospital and Medical Centers, Southfield, Michigan 48075, USA.



Chronic radiation proctopathy occurs in 5 to 20% of patients receiving radiation therapy, with rectal bleeding as its most common presentation. Although formalin treatment for rectal bleeding is promising, improvement is possible. Given the success of vitamin A in other radiation-induced treatments, we studied the efficacy of combining formalin with vitamin A in controlling bleeding symptoms of chronic radiation proctopathy.


A retrospective review (1993-2007) was performed of patients presenting with features of chronic radiation proctopathy. Formalin 8% in a buffered solution was applied to the affected mucosa with use a tip applicator, and 10,000 units of vitamin A were given orally on a daily basis. Formalin treatments were repeated at three-week to four-week intervals until symptoms resolved.


A comparison was made between patients who received formalin alone (n = 30) and those who received formalin in combination with vitamin A (n = 34). The 64 patients had a mean age of 79 years (range, 54-90 years). The combination group required fewer treatments (mean, 1.9) and a shorter time (11 weeks) for resolution of symptoms compared with the formalin-alone group (mean, 5.2 and 31 weeks, respectively) (P < 0.001). The overall success rate in controlling bleeding was only 64% in the formalin-alone group when compared with 94% in the combination group.


When vitamin A was added to the regimen, a significant reduction was observed in the number of treatments and the time needed for resolution of symptoms, and there was an increased overall success rate. This combination represents a simple, effective, and well tolerated method of controlling hemorrhagic chronic radiation proctopathy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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