Aim: To assess long term results of argon plasma coagulation (APC) treatment in hemorrhagic radiation proctitis.
Methods: Thirty patients treated with APC in 2 departments were enrolled. In 16 patients, APC was the first treatment used. A clinical scale (Chutkan) was used to assess bleeding before and after treatment. An endoscopic scale was used to assess results on mucosa appearance.
Results: The mean course number was 2.3 (extremes 1-5). Bleeding score decreased from 2.67 to 0.77 (P<0.001). The success rate was 26/30 patients (87%) in an intention-to-treat analysis with 2 failures (6%), 1 patient lost for follow up and 1 patient not referred after one session. Improvement in endoscopic appearance was observed in the 13 endoscopically controlled patients with a decrease of the endoscopic score from 1.61 to 0.3 (P<0.002). The overall morbidity was 47% with 3 severe complications (10%): 1 severe bleeding, 1 extensive necrosis of lower part of the rectum and 1 perforation. We also noticed 3 microrecties and 2 symptomless rectal stenosis. With regard to tolerance, we observed post treatment pain in 6 patients (20%), easily released by usual antalgics. Complications and side effects occurred, in all patients but one, when power shot was > 45 W. Mean follow up was 20 months (3 to 35 months). Hematochezia recurred in 4 patients, but were easily treated with 1 APC course.
Conclusion: APC is an effective treatment of hemorrhagic radiation proctitis, with a success rate of 87%. Endoscopic improvement is usual. It seems to be possible to limit the risk of complications by using low power setting.