OBJECTIVES: The management of chronic radiation enteritis (CRE) is difficult and often controversial. The aim of the study was to compare long-term outcome of patients with radiation-induced intestinal obstruction treated either surgically or with intestinal rest and home parenteral nutrition (HPN). METHODS: Thirty patients, with mechanical bowel obstruction due to CRE, were retrospectively included in the study and divided in two groups according to the first treatment approach. Seventeen patients underwent surgery (S group) and 13 patients were supported with HPN (HPN group). Survival, nutrition autonomy, number of surgeries, related complications and persistence of symptoms were evaluated in the two groups. Associations between factors and treatment group were assessed by means of the Wilcoxon rank sum test for continuous variables and the Fisher exact test for categorical variables. Overall survival was calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method. RESULTS: The two groups were similar in terms of age, dose of radiation therapy, time of occurrence and degree of signs and symptoms. 7/13 patients in the HPN group resolved the obstruction without surgery. 10/17 patients of the S group developed intestinal failure which required HPN. Nutrition autonomy was achieved in 100% and 58.8% of HPN and S group respectively (p = 0.01). The overall five-year survival was 90.0% and 68.4% respectively in the HPN and S group (p = 0.0231). CONCLUSIONS: Both HPN and surgery are often necessary in patients with chronic radiation-induced intestinal obstruction. However, the long term nutrition autonomy and survival seem to be better in patients initially treated with intestinal rest and HPN.
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