Maintenance of bowel, bladder, and motor functions after sacrectomy

Spine J. 2015 Feb 1;15(2):222-9. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2014.08.445. Epub 2014 Sep 6.


Background context: Repeated cohort studies have consistently demonstrated a survival advantage after en bloc resection for locally aggressive primary tumors in the sacrum. A sacrectomy is often required to remove the tumor en bloc, which may necessitate the sacrifice of sacral nerves. This can potentially result in functional complications, including the impairment of gait, bowel function, or bladder function.

Purpose: To assess the bladder, bowel, and motor functions of patients after resection of a primary sacral tumor.

Study design: This was a retrospective cohort study at a single academic institution.

Patient sample: Consecutive patients who underwent an en bloc sacral tumor resection at a single institution between December 2002 and June 2012 were included. The study population comprised 73 patients.

Outcome measures: Patients were classified as having had a low, middle, high, or total sacrectomy based on the level of sacral nerves sacrificed, if applicable.

Methods: Patient data were collected from clinic notes and hospital records that included operative notes, lab studies, and rehabilitation notes.

Results: Across all patients, there was no change in bowel function after sacrectomy, whereas bladder and motor functions returned to preoperative (pre-op) levels at 3 and 6 months, respectively. Higher level sacrectomies were associated with worse bowel (p<.001), bladder (p<.001), and motor (p=.027) functions 12 months postoperatively (post-op). At 1 year, none of the six patients with a high or total sacrectomy had intact bladder function and 14.3% (N=7) had intact bowel function. Of patients with a middle sacrectomy, 62.5% (N=8) had intact bladder function and 71.4% (N=7) had intact bowel function at 1 year. Of patients with a low sacrectomy, 91.7% (N=12) had intact bladder function and 91.7% (N=12) had intact bowel function.

Conclusions: Preoperative bladder, bowel, and motor functions, level of sacral tumor involvement, and corresponding level of sacrectomy were the greatest predictors of long-term bladder, bowel, and motor functions. There were no statistically significant changes in bladder, bowel, or motor functions from pre-op to 6 months post-op, and therefore, pre-op functional status was predictive of long-term function.

Keywords: Bladder; Bowel; Chordoma; Sacrectomy; Spine; Surgery; Tumor.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sacrum / surgery
  • Spinal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Urinary Bladder Diseases / etiology*