Rectourethralis muscle and pitfalls of anterior perineal dissection in abdominoperineal resection and intersphincteric resection for rectal cancer

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When performing nerve-sparing abdominoperitoneal resection or intersphincteric resection of lower rectal cancer, difficulty is sometimes encountered during dissection, separation and treatment in the area anterior to the anorectum passing through the levator hiatus between the bilateral levator ani slings owing to missing the surgical plane or venous bleeding. The rectourethralis muscle, which is a mass of smooth muscle, occupies the levator hiatus. The present histological study using nine male cadaveric specimens demonstrated that: (i) the external anal sphincter is likely to be tightly connected to the rectourethralis muscle; (ii) the rectal muscularis propria communicates with the rectourethralis muscle; (iii) the anorectal veins take a tortuous course across the rectourethralis muscle; (iv) Denonvilliers' fascia ends at the rectourethralis muscle; and (v) the rectourethralis muscle provides posterior attachment for the rhabdosphincter. Moreover, the cavernous nerve has been reported to penetrate the rectourethralis muscle. Therefore, careful treatment of the muscle seems to be necessary to avoid male sexual dysfunction. Owing to muscle fiber communications between the rectal muscularis propria and the rectourethralis muscle, and the fact that Denonvilliers' fascia terminates in the rectourethralis muscle, the surgical plane would tend to deeply penetrate the muscle mass. However, mass ligation of the anterior tissues for control of venous bleeding should be avoided. When the tumor is non-anterior, an abdominal surgical plane behind Denonvilliers' fascia is recommended to avoid excess invasion into the rectourethralis muscle.

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