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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 22, Issue 2, Pages 129-132
Original Article

Efficacy of Argon Plasma Coagulation Compared with Topical Formalin Application for Chronic Radiation Proctopathy

AA Alfadhli,1 WM Alazmi,1 T Ponich,2 JM Howard,2 I Prokopiw,2 A Alaqeel,2 and JC Gregor2

1Mubarak Alkabeer Hospital, Aljabrya, Kuwait
2Division of Gastroenterology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

Received 26 April 2007; Accepted 7 August 2007

Copyright © 2008 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Chronic radiation proctopathy (CRP) is a troublesome complication of radiotherapy to the pelvis for which current treatment modalities are suboptimal. Currently, the application of formalin to the rectal mucosa (AFR) and thermal ablation with argon plasma coagulation (APC) are the most promising options.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the efficacy and safety of AFR with APC for CRP.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Records of 22 patients (male to female ratio, 19:3; mean age, 74 years) who received either APC or AFR for chronic hematochezia caused by CRP, and who were evaluated and treated between May 1998 and April 2002, were reviewed. Complete evaluations were made three months after completion of each therapeutic modality. Patients were considered to be responders if there was a 10% increase in hemoglobin from baseline or complete normalization of hemoglobin (male patients, higher than 130 g/L; female patients, higher than 115 g/L) without the requirement for blood transfusion.

RESULTS: The mean hemoglobin level before therapy was 107 g/L. Patients received an average of 1.78 sessions for APC and 1.81 sessions for AFR. Eleven patients (50%) were treated with APC alone, eight patients (36%) with AFR alone and three (14%) with both modalities (two with AFR followed by APC, and one with APC followed by AFR). Eleven of 14 patients (79%) in the APC group were responders, compared with three of 11 patients (27%) in the AFR group (P=0.017). In the APC group, seven of 11 responders required only a single session, while in the AFR group, only one patient responded after a single session. Adverse events (nausea, vomiting, flushing, abdominal cramps, rectal pain and fever) occurred in two patients after APC and in nine patients after AFR (P=0.001). In the APC group, the mean hemoglobin level increase was 20 g/L at three months follow-up, compared with 14 g/L in the AFR group.

CONCLUSION: This retrospective study suggests that APC is more effective and safe than topical AFR to control hematochezia caused by CRP. Further studies are needed to confirm this observation.