Medline: 3631762

American Surgeon 53(9): 501-504, 1987.

Radiation enteritis.

O'Brien PH, Jenrette JM, Garvin AJ


As the population receiving radiation therapy grows, so does the incidence of chronic radiation enteritis. A review of the pathology of chronic radiation enteritis reveals fibrosis, endarteritis, edema, fragility, perforation, and partial obstruction. Conservative management of patients with this disease is common. Because the obstruction is only partial, decompression is easily achieved with nasogastric suction and parenteral support. The patient is then often discharged on a liquid-to-soft diet. This therapeutic strategy does nothing for the underlying pathology. The problem, sooner or later, will return with the patient further depleted by the chronic radiation enteritis. We think surgical intervention is appropriate when the diagnosis of chronic radiation enteritis is assumed. The surgery in relation to this disease is high risk with a 30% mortality and 100% expensive morbidity. Early intervention seems to decrease these figures. All anastomoses, if possible, should be outside the irradiated area. Trapped pelvic loops of intestine should be left in place and a bypass procedure with decompressing enterostomies accomplished. The surgery should be performed by a surgeon with extensive experience with all kinds of bowel obstruction as well as experience in performing surgery in radiated tissue.

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Dr. G. Quade