The anatomy of the perineal body in relation to abdominoperineal excision for low rectal cancer

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Abstract

Aim

Dissection of the perineal body (PB) during abdominoperineal excision (APE) for low rectal cancer is often difficult due to the lack of a natural plane of dissection. Understanding the PB and its relation to the anorectum is essential to permit safe dissection during the perineal phase of the operation and avoid damage to the anorectum and urogenital organs. This study describes the anatomy and histology of the PB relevant to APE.

Method

Six human adult cadaver pelvic exenteration specimens (three male, three female) from the Leeds GIFT Research Tissue Programme were studied. Paraffin-embedded mega-blocks were produced and serially sectioned at 50- and 250-μm intervals. Sections were stained by immunohistochemistry to show collagen, elastin and smooth muscle.

Results

The PB was cylindrically shaped in the male specimens and wedge-shaped in the female ones. Although centrally located between the anal and urogenital triangles, it was nearly completely formed by muscle fibres derived from the rectal muscularis propria. Thick bundles of smooth muscle, mostly arising from the longitudinal muscle, inserted into the PB and levator ani muscle (LAM). The recto-urethralis muscle originated from the PB and separated the anterolateral PB from the urogenital organs.

Conclusion

Smooth muscle fibres derived from the rectal muscularis propria extend into the PB and LAM and appear to fix the anorectum. Dissection of the PB during APE is safe only when the smooth muscle fibres that extend into the PB are divided.

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