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Abstract

Background:

Bladder and sexual dysfunction, secondary to pelvic nerve injury, are recognized complications of rectal resection. This study investigated the frequency of these complications following laparoscopically assisted and conventional open mesorectal resection for cancer.

Methods:

A total of 170 patients with rectal cancer was identified from a previous randomized trial of laparoscopic versus open resection. A retrospective analysis of bladder and sexual function before and after operation was performed by means of postal questionnaires and telephone interviews.

Results:

At the time of the study, 111 (65 per cent) of the 170 patients were alive, of whom 80 (72 per cent) responded. Of the responders, 40 patients had undergone laparoscopically assisted resection and 40 had had an open operation. No significant deterioration in bladder function following operation was observed, although two patients in the laparoscopic group required long-term intermittent self-catheterization. A significant difference in male, but not female, sexual function was noted, with seven of 15 sexually active men in the laparoscopic group reporting impotence or impaired ejaculation, compared with only one of 22 patients having an open operation (P = 0·004). All patients with bladder or sexual dysfunction in the laparoscopic group had resection of either bulky or low rectal cancers.

Conclusion:

Laparoscopically assisted rectal resection is associated with a higher rate of male sexual dysfunction, but not bladder dysfunction, compared with the open approach. This has implications, particularly for sexually active males with bulky or low rectal cancers, when deciding the best operative approach. © 2002 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd