Sexual function after resection for rectal cancer

Mario Luigi Santangelo, Giovanni Romano, Cinzia Sassaroli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Major rectal operation, that is, abdominoperineal or anterior resection, for cancer frequently damages the autonomic pelvic nerve supply with resultant sexual dysfunction. The anatomic characteristics and function of the autonomic nervous system in the pelvis has been reviewed. Sexual function after rectal excision for cancer was studied in 25 male patients who were less than 60 years of age and exhibited normal sexual activity preoperatively. Of nine patients who had abdominoperineal resection, four were impotent and two reported no ejaculation with normal potency postoperatively. Of 4 patients who had high anterior resection, only 1 reported no ejaculation, whereas of 12 patients with low anterior resection, 4 were impotent and 3 reported no ejaculation. A higher incidence of sexual dysfunction was noted after abdominoperineal resection compared with after anterior resection (66 percent and 50 percent, respectively). However, the incidence after low and very low anterior resection was comparable with that after abdominoperineal resection (58 percent and 66 percent, respectively). Advanced patient age and very low resection were the two main factors effecting sexual dysfunction after major rectal operation. Although we believe that careful operative technique might reduce the incidence of sexual disturbances attributable to sympathetic fiber damage, avoidance of parasympathetic damage during operation cannot be accomplished because the most likely site of injury, namely the periprostatic plexus, is usually within the operative field, the exception being cases in which the tumor is small, thus allowing preservation of the rectoprostatic fascia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-504
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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