Evaluation and treatment of chronic intractable rectal pain—A frustrating endeavor

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Abstract

A study was undertaken to assess the evaluation and treatment of chronic intractable rectal pain. Sixty consecutive patients, 23 males and 37 females with a mean age of 69 (range, 29-87) years and a mean length of symptoms of 4.5 years, were evaluated by questionnaire, office examination, anal manometry, electromyography, cinedefecography, and pudendal nerve study. In all cases, organic abdominopelvic and anorectal etiologies for the pain were excluded by extensive radiologic and endoscopic evaluation. All patients had failed conservative and medical therapy. Ninety-five percent of patients had one or more associated factors: constipation or dyschezia (57 percent), prior pelvic surgery (43 percent), prior anal surgery (32 percent), prior spinal surgery (8 percent), irritable bowel syndrome (10 percent), or psychiatric disorders (depression or anxiety; 25 percent). Possible etiologies for the pain included levator spasm or anismus in 62 percent, coccygodynia in 8 percent, and pudendal neuropathy in 24 percent of patients. Therapy for pain control included electrogalvanic stimulation (EGS) in 29, biofeedback (BF) in 14, and steroid caudal block (SCB) in 11 patients. Pain control was assessed by an independent observer at a mean of 15 (range, 2-36) months after completion of therapy. Continued successful pain relief was classified by patients as good or excellent after EGS in 38 percent, after BF in 43 percent, and after SCB in 18 percent; overall success was reported by 47 percent of patients. The presence of levator spasm, coccygodynia, or pudendal neuropathy did not influence outcome. The routine use of physiologic investigation of rectal pain may not be justifiable. Moreover, more than half of the patients were refractory to all three therapeutic options used in this study.

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