A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial of Transanal Irrigation Versus Conservative Treatment in Patients With Low Anterior Resection Syndrome After Rectal Cancer Surgery

Ann Surg. 2023 Jan 1;277(1):30-37. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000005482. Epub 2022 Jul 7.


Objective: The aim of the study was to evaluate transanal irrigation (TAI) as a treatment for low anterior resection syndrome (LARS).

Background: LARS is a bowel disorder that is common after sphincter preserving rectal cancer surgery. Despite symptomatic medical treatment of LARS many patients still experience bowel symptoms that may have a negative impact on quality of life (QoL). TAI is a treatment strategy, of which the clinical experience is promising but scientific evidence is limited.

Materials and methods: A multicenter randomized trial comparing TAI (intervention) with conservative treatment (control) was performed. Inclusion criteria were major LARS, age above 18 years, low anterior resection with anastomosis and a defunctioning stoma as primary surgery, >6 months since stoma reversal, anastomosis without signs of leakage or stricture, and no signs of recurrence at 1-year follow-up. The primary endpoint was differences in bowel function at 12-month follow-up measured by LARS score, Cleveland Clinic Florida Fecal Incontinence Score, and 4 study-specific questions. The secondary outcome was QoL.

Results: A total of 45 patients were included, 22 in the TAI group and 23 in the control group. Follow-up was available for 16 and 22 patients, respectively. At 12 months, patients in the TAI group reported significantly lower LARS scores (22.9 vs 32.4; P =0.002) and Cleveland Clinic Florida Fecal Incontinence Score (6.4 vs 9.2; P =0.050). In addition, patients in the TAI group also scored significantly higher QoL [8 of 16 European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 30 (EORTC QLQ-C30) QoL aspects] compared with the control group.

Conclusions: The results confirm our clinical experience that TAI reduces symptoms included in LARS and improves QoL.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Conservative Treatment
  • Fecal Incontinence*
  • Humans
  • Low Anterior Resection Syndrome
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Quality of Life
  • Rectal Neoplasms* / surgery