Objective: Total mesorectal excision (TME) is the gold standard in rectal cancer, if curation is intended. Transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEM) is a much safer technique and seems to have comparable survival in early rectal cancer. The impact of both procedures on quality of life has never been compared. In this study we compared quality of life after TEM and TME.
Method: Fifty-four patients underwent TEM for a T1 carcinoma. Only patients without known locoregional or distant recurrences were included, resulting in 36 eligible patients in whom quality of life after TEM was studied. The questionnaires used included the EuroQol EQ-5D, EQ-VAS, EORTC QLQ-C30 and EORTC QLQ-CR38. The results were compared with a sex-and age-matched sample of T+N0 rectal cancer patients who had undergone sphincter saving surgery by TME and a sex- and age matched community-based sample of healthy persons.
Results: Thirty-one patients after TEM returned completed questionnaires (overall response rate 86%). Quality of life was compared with 31 TME patients and 31 healthy controls. From the patients' and social perspective quality of life did not differ between the three groups. Compared with TEM, significant defecation problems were seen after TME (P < 0.05). A trend towards better sexual functioning after TEM, compared with TME, was seen, especially in male patients, although it did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusion: Transanal endoscopic microsurgery and TME do not seem to differ in quality of life postoperatively, but defecation disorders are more frequently encountered after TME. This difference could play a role in the choice of surgical therapy in (early) rectal cancer. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm our conclusions.