Sphincter-preserving surgery for low-middle rectal cancer: Can we predict feasibility with high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging?

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The study proposed to evaluate the feasibility of predicting sphincter-sparing surgery (SSS) preoperatively in low-middle rectal cancer by using magnetic resonance (MR).

The study included both retrospective and prospective design. In the retrospective design, the distance from lower edge of tumor to upper margin of the internal sphincter (Dis1) and distance to anal verge (Dis2) were measured on MR, the distance to anal verge recorded by colonoscopy (Dis3) and digital rectal examination (Dis4) were also obtained. ROC analysis was conducted and cut-off value was determined with overall and stratified analysis. The prospective part was designed to validate the predictive capability of the optimal distance.

The retrospective design included 278 patients with middle or lower rectal adenocarcinoma, the prospective design included 106 patients with neoadjuvant therapies. The primary outcome was the actual surgical method and pathological distal resection margin. Dis1 obtained from MRI presented better performance than other distances in determining the surgical approach, with AUC of 0.997 (95% CI, 0.934–1.000). Dis1 was selected as the optimal distance and a cut-off value of 2 cm was determined. Dis1 and the cut-off value were also validated in the prospective sample, with AUC of 0.996 (95% CI, 0.989–1.000) and an overall accuracy of 99.1%.

MR-based distance from lower edge of tumor to upper margin of the internal sphincter could be used to help the surgeons to predict the feasibility of SSS preoperatively.

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