The clinical presentation, operative findings and outcome in 40 patients who required surgery for bowel disease after radiotherapy are presented. The type of presentation varied according to the time after radiotherapy. In the first month, many patients had a proctitis but none required surgery. Five patients were operated on within one month, 2 for radiation-induced acute ileitis and 3 for exacerbations of pre-existing disease (diverticular disease 2, ulcerative colitis 1). The commonest time of presentation was between 3 and 18 months after radiotherapy, when 20 patients needed surgery for bowel disease caused by radiation-induced local ischaemia. Twelve of these patients had chronic perforation, 6 had severe rectal bleeding and 2 had painful anorectal ulceration. Fifteen patients presented between 2 and 24 years after radiotherapy, usually with incomplete intestinal obstruction due to a fibrous stricture, but 2 patients had rectal carcinoma. Wide resection of the involved bowel was the principal method of treatment but any anastomosis was protected by a proximal defunctioning stoma. There was no operative mortality but 10 patients have died subsequently. The danger of dismissing these patients as having incurable malignancy is stressed because, although the condition is infrequent, it is usually amenable to adequate surgery.
Bowel disease after radiotherapy. 1983, 76 (6):463-6 J R Soc Med
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