Purpose: To evaluate prospectively the prevalence and pathophysiology of anorectal dysfunction following radiation therapy (RTH) for localized carcinoma of the prostate.
Methods and materials: The following parameters of anorectal function were evaluated in each of 35 patients (aged 55-82 years) with localized prostatic carcinoma treated with RTH either to a dose of 55 Gy/20 fractions/4 weeks (18 patients) or 64 Gy/32 fractions/6.5 weeks (17 patients), before RTH and 4-6 weeks and at a mean (+/- SD) of 1.4 (+/- 0.2) years after its completion: (1) anorectal symptoms (questionnaire), (2) anorectal pressures at rest and in response to voluntary squeeze and increases in intra-abdominal pressure (multiport anorectal manometry), (3) rectal sensation (balloon distension) and (4) anal sphincteric morphology (endoanal ultrasound).
Results: All but 1 patient completed three series of measurements. RTH had no effect on anal sphincteric morphology. The increase in frequency of defecation and fecal urgency and incontinence scores previously reported in the patients 4-6 weeks after RTH were sustained 1 year later (p < 0.001, p < 0.001, and p < 0.05, cf. baseline, respectively). At this time, 56% (19 of 34), 50% (17 of 34) and 26% (9 of 34) of the patients had increased frequency of defecation, fecal urgency, and incontinence, respectively. Decreases in anal sphincteric pressures at rest and in response to voluntary squeeze recorded in the patients 4-6 weeks after RTH were not sustained 1 year later but the volumes of rectal distension associated with perception of the stimulus and desire to defecate were lower compared with baseline volumes (p < 0.01 and p < 0.05, respectively), reflecting heightened rectal sensitivity in the patients. There was no difference in measurements between the two radiation dose regimens. Univariate logistical regression analysis was performed on patients who had experienced increased symptom scores or decreases in recorded motor and sensory manometric parameters at 1 year, cf. baseline. The predictor variables used included individual patient tumor and treatment characteristics as well as individual patient symptom scores and parameters of anorectal motor and sensory function at baseline and 4-6 weeks after RTH. The results of the univariate logistical regression analysis showed that (1) frequency of defecation at 4-6 weeks and (2) rectal volumes at baseline both for (a) perception (p < 0.001) and (b) desire to defecate (p < 0.001), predicted significantly for the patients who had symptoms and signs of anorectal dysfunction at 1 year. Individual patient tumor and treatment-related variables tested, in contrast, had no predictive significance.
Conclusions: Anorectal symptoms following RTH for prostatic carcinoma are common and persist at least until 1 year after its completion and are associated with objective evidence of heightened rectal sensitivity.