Is my life going to change?—a review of quality of life after rectal resection

Daniel Fernández-Martínez, Antonio Rodríguez-Infante, Jorge Luis Otero-Díez, Ricardo Felipe Baldonedo-Cernuda, María Pilar Mosteiro-Díaz, Luis Joaquin García-Flórez


Rectal resection is a common practice for colorectal surgeons. The causes of this procedure are varied. The most frequent is cancer, but also inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, and rectovaginal or rectourethral fistulas. The loss of the normal rectal reservoir function, urinary problems, sexual dysfunction or pelvic pain are frequently reported in patients after rectal surgery and these disorders markedly affect the overall quality of life (QoL). In the last decades, rectal surgery has radically changed, with the development of surgical techniques, and it has progressed from abdominoperineal resection (APR) with a permanent colostomy to sphincter-saving procedures. Nowadays, the use of sphincter-preserving surgery has increased, but all these surgical techniques can have important sequels that modify the QoL of the patients. Historically, surgical outcomes, such as complications, survival and recurrences, have been widely studied by surgeons. In the present day, surgical outcomes have improved, rectal cancer recurrence rate has decreased and survival has increased. For these reasons, it has begun to gain importance in aspects of the QoL of patients, such as body image, fecal continence and sexuality or urinary function. Therefore, physicians should know the influence of different techniques and approaches on functional outcomes and QoL, to be able to inform patients of the treatment benefits and risk of postoperative dysfunctions. The aim of our study is to review the current literature to determine to what degree the QoL of patients who underwent a rectal resection decreases, which domains are the most affected and, in addition, to establish the influence of different surgical techniques and approaches on functional outcomes.