Bowel Dysfunction After Low Anterior Resection With Neoadjuvant Chemoradiotherapy or Chemotherapy Alone for Rectal Cancer: A Cross-Sectional Study from China

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Neoadjuvant therapy plays a vital role in the treatment of locally advanced rectal cancer but impairs bowel function after restorative surgery. Optimal decision making requires adequate information of functional outcomes.


This study aimed to assess postoperative bowel function and to identify predictors for severe dysfunction.


The study included a cross-sectional cohort and retrospective assessments of pelvic anatomic features.


The study was conducted at a tertiary GI hospital in China.


Included patients underwent neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy or chemotherapy without radiation and curative low anterior resection for rectal cancer between 2012 and 2014.


Bowel function was assessed using the validated low anterior resection syndrome score. The thicknesses of the rectal wall, obturator internus, and levator ani were measured by preoperative MRI.


A total of 151 eligible patients were identified, and 142 patients (94.0%) participated after a median of 19 months from surgery. Bowel dysfunction was observed in 71.1% (101/142) of patients, with 44.4% (63/142) reporting severe dysfunction. Symptoms of urgency and clustering were found to be major disturbances. Regression analysis identified preoperative long-course radiotherapy (p < 0.001) and a lower-third tumor (p = 0.002) independently associated with severe bowel dysfunction. Irradiated patients with a lower-third tumor (OR = 14.06; p < 0.001) or thickening of the rectal wall (OR = 11.09; p < 0.001) had a markedly increased risk of developing severe dysfunction.


The study was based on a limited cohort of patients and moderate follow-up after the primary surgery.


Bowel function deteriorates frequently after low anterior resection for rectal cancer. Severe bowel dysfunction is significantly associated with preoperative long-course radiotherapy and a lower-third tumor, and the thickening of rectal wall after radiation is a strong predictor. Treatment decisions and patient consent should be implemented with raising awareness of bowel symptom burdens. See Video Abstract at

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