Radical and nerve-preserving surgery for rectal cancer in the Netherlands: a prospective study on morbidity and functional outcome




Operative procedures for primary rectal cancer from Japan combine pelvic nerve-preserving techniques with radical tumour resection to ensure optimal local tumour control with minimal bladder and sexual dysfunction. A prospective study was undertaken to evaluate morbidity and functional outcome of such a technique in Dutch patients.


Forty-seven patients were operated on by a Japanese surgeon. Postoperative course was monitored. Voiding and sexual function were analysed using questionnaires completed by patients.


After operation, only prolonged paralytic ileus (five of 47 patients) and perineal wound dehiscence (five of 18) occurred more frequently than reported in literature. There were no deaths. No patient developed urinary incontinence. Three of 11 women and 19 of 30 men were sexually active. Two men were impotent after operation. Impotence was related to sacrifice of the inferior hypogastric plexus (P = 0·037). Preservation of the superior hypogastric plexus was crucial for ejaculation (P = 0·003).


A relationship between sacrifice of specific nerve structures and accompanying dysfunction was established. The nerve-preserving technique yields good results in terms of morbidity and functional outcome, and should be considered for adoption as a standard surgical procedure for primary rectal cancer. © 1998 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd