The early effect of pelvic irradiation on the anal sphincter has not been previously investigated. This study prospectively evaluated the acute effect of preoperative radiation on anal function. Twenty patients with rectal carcinoma received 4,500 cGy of preoperative external beam radiation. The field of radiation included the sphincter in 10 patients and was delivered above the anorectal ring in 10 patients. Anal manometry and transrectal ultrasound were performed before and four weeks after radiotherapy. No significant difference in mean maximal squeeze or resting pressure was found after radiation therapy. An increase in mean minimal sensory threshold was significant. Histologic examination revealed minimal radiation changes at the distal margin in 8 of 10 patients who underwent low anterior resection and in 1 of 3 patients who underwent abdominoperineal resection. We conclude that preoperative radiation therapy has minimal immediate effect on the anal sphincter and is not a major contributing factor to postoperative incontinence in patients after sphincter-saving operations for rectal cancer.
- Anal manometry
- Preoperative radiation therapy
- Rectal cancer
- Transrectal ultrasound