Twenty Years of a Veterans' Spinal Cord Injury Colorectal Clinic: Flexible Sigmoidoscopy and Multiple Hemorrhoid Ligation

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Colorectal and anal problems arise in chronic spinal cord injury care. We review 20 years of experience in a colorectal clinic at a veterans medical center treating mostly male veterans who have spinal cord injury.


We aim to show the results of colorectal interventions in a population with chronic spinal cord injury.


This study is a retrospective records review.


This study was conducted at a Department of Veterans Affairs regional spinal cord injury center.


Six hundred forty-one individuals (625 males) made 1208 visits. Mean age was 56 ± 13 years; ages ranged from 21 to 90 years.


Flexible sigmoidoscopy was done for diagnosis and screening, and hemorrhoid ligation was performed for symptomatic hemorrhoids.


The primary outcomes measured were the frequency, timing, and results of procedures.


Five hundred forty-eight people had 781 flexible sigmoidoscopies. At first examination, mean age was 65 ± 12 and the duration of injury was 19 ± 15 years. Sixty examinations (7.7%) displayed poor preparation. The interval between adequate-prepared examinations was 5.7 ± 2.0 years. The adenoma detection rate was 4.7%. Two hundred fifteen people had 406 hemorrhoid ligations. At first banding, the mean age was 52 ± 13 and the duration of injury was 20 ± 15 years. Mean number of ligations per procedure was 4.9 ± 2.0; a range of 1 to 20. Nine hemorrhoid operations were done in this period. Regarding the futility of procedures, 250 people died, with a mean age at death of 69 ± 11. The median time between any procedure and death was 4.4 years. Seventeen procedures were done within 6 months of death; these deaths were either unexpected or because of conditions identified at or after the procedure.


This was a retrospective review of a single institution, it involved a mostly male population, and it used a subjective assessment of bowel preparation.


In a spinal cord injury colorectal clinic, sigmoidoscopy can keep screening current, with an acceptable level of poor preparation. The adenoma detection rate may or may not be adequate. Hemorrhoid ligation can be expanded beyond its limits in the non-spinal cord-injured population, including multiple and external banding, taking the place of an operation in most cases. These procedures are well tolerated and rarely futile.

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