Argon plasma coagulation for the treatment of hemorrhagic radiation proctitis

Endoscopy. 2000 Sep;32(9):673-6. doi: 10.1055/s-2000-9023.


Background and study aims: Chronic radiation proctitis is a complication of radiotherapy for malignant pelvic diseases. Rectal bleeding caused by radiation proctitis is difficult to manage. Argon plasma coagulation (APC) is an electrocoagulation technique that appears to be an effective and low-cost alternative to the use of lasers in gastrointestinal endoscopy. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of APC, as well as patients' tolerance of the procedure, in the treatment of bleeding radiation-induced proctitis.

Patients and methods: The charts of 16 patients with chronic radiation proctitis were analyzed retrospectively. Their average age was 73.5 (range 62-80). Fifteen patients had prostate cancer, and one had uterine cancer. The average time to onset of symptoms after radiotherapy was 15 months (range 6-36 months). All patients had intermittent or daily rectal bleeding, and three patients needed blood transfusions. The severity of bleeding was graded from 0 to 4. APC treatment was administered every month; the argon gas flow was set at 0.6 l/min with an electrical power setting of 40 W.

Results: All patients were improved with APC treatment. A mean of 3.7 sessions was necessary to relieve symptoms. APC therapy resulted in a reduction in the mean severity score from 2.4 to 0.6. Seven patients had no recurrent rectal bleeding, and the bleeding was significantly reduced to occasional and negligible spotting (less than one bleeding episode per week) in nine patients. None of the patients required transfusions after treatment. During the follow-up period (average 10.7 months, range 8-28 months), one patient had a recurrence of rectal bleeding that required two repeat sessions. The tolerance was good, with no long-term treatment-related complications.

Conclusions: APC is an effective, safe and well-tolerated treatment for rectal bleeding caused by chronic radiation proctitis. It should be considered as a first-line therapy for radiation proctitis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Argon
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Laser Coagulation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proctitis / etiology
  • Proctitis / surgery*
  • Radiation Injuries / complications
  • Radiation Injuries / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Argon