Operating Behind Denonvilliers' Fascia for Reliable Preservation of Urogenital Autonomic Nerves in Total Mesorectal Excision: A Histologic Study Using Cadaveric Specimens, Including a Surgical Experiment Using Fresh Cadaveric Models

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Little is known about which urogenital nerves are liable to be injured along surgical planes in front of or behind Denonvilliers' fascia.

Methods and Results:

Using semiserial histology for five fixed male pelves, we demonstrated that: 1) left/right communicating branches of bilateral pelvic plexuses run immediately in front of Denonvilliers' fascia; and 2) a lateral continuation of Denonvilliers' fascia separates the urogenital neurovascular bundle from the mesorectum. Notably, the mesorectum contains no or few extramural ganglion cells. At the level of the seminal vesicles, incision in front of Denonvilliers' fascia seems likely to injure superior parts of the pelvic plexus and the left/right communication. Moreover, at the prostate level, this incision misleads the surgical plane into the neurovascular bundle. Fresh cadaveric dissections of five unfixed male pelves confirmed that the surgical plane in front of Denonvilliers' fascia continues to a fascial space for the pelvic plexus containing ganglion cell clusters lateral and/or inferior to the seminal vesicles.


To preserve all autonomic nerves for urogenital function, optimal total mesorectal excision for rectal cancer requires dissection behind Denonvilliers' fascia.

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