Surgical Management of Functional Constipation: Preliminary Report of a New Approach Using a Laparoscopic Sigmoid Resection Combined with a Malone Appendicostomy

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Abstract

Introduction

Functional constipation is a common problem in children. It usually can be managed with laxatives but a small subset of patients develop intolerable cramps and need to be temporarily treated with enemas. The senior author has previously reported: 1) open sigmoid resection as a surgical option, but this did not sufficiently reduce the laxative need, then 2) a transanal approach (with resection of rectosigmoid), but this led to a high rate of soiling due to extensive stretching of the anal canal and loss of the rectal reservoir. The understanding of these procedures’ results has led us to use a laparoscopic sigmoid ± left colonic resection with a Malone appendicostomy for these patients, to decrease the laxative requirements, temporarily treat with antegrade flushes, and to reduce postoperative soiling.

Methods

A single-institution retrospective review (3/2014-9/2015) included patients who failed our laxative protocol, and therefore were considered surgical candidates. Patients with anorectal malformation (ARM), Hirschsprung disease, spina bifida, tethered cord, trisomy 21, cerebral palsy, mitochondrial disease, prior colon resection at other facilities, or those that did not participate in our laxative program were excluded. Demographics, duration of symptoms, prior treatments, postoperative complications, and postoperative bowel regimens were evaluated.

Results

A total of 6 patients (3 males; median age of 12.5 years) presented with soiling related to constipation and intolerance to laxatives. Four patients failed preoperative cecostomy (done prior to referral to us). An average of 4.7 medication treatments were previously tried. In all, 4 patients had required in-patient disimpactions. Duration of symptoms was 7.5 years (median). The median senna dose was 30 mg (range, 15-150 mg), and all patients had intolerable symptoms or failed to empty their colon, which we considered a failed laxative trial. All had contrast enemas that demonstrated a dilated and/or redundant sigmoid colon, and colonic manometry was abnormal in 4. All patients underwent laparoscopic sigmoid and left colon resection, or only sigmoid resection (a low anterior resection). Two patients had postoperative colitis treated with oral antibiotics. The median follow-up was 52 days (range, 8-304 days). Five patients are on antegrade enemas with plans to convert to laxatives at 6 months, 1 is taking laxatives alone at a 33% lower dosage. Five of six are completely clean, 1 soils occasionally and their daily flush is being adjusted.

Conclusion

Only a minority of patients with functional constipation are medically unmanageable. This preliminary report shows that laparoscopic colon resection combined with antegrade flushes is an effective surgical technique to treat that group. A laparoscopic approach, guided by contrast enema and colonic manometry, allows for a defined resection of the abnormal segment of colon with the advantages of minimally invasive surgery including allowing for an extensive rectal resection (an improvement over open sigmoid resection) and avoidance of overstretching of the anal canal and removal of the rectal reservoir (an improvement over the transanal approach). Having antegrade access is useful to manage soiling and avoiding cramping from laxatives in the early postoperative period. Although our series is small, we believe that long-term most patients can avoid antegrade flushes and be on no, or a dramatically reduced, laxative dose.

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