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Laparoscopic Resection Rectopexy Technique

  • Author: Abhiman Cheeyandira, MD; Chief Editor: Vinay Kumar Kapoor, MBBS, MS, FRCS, FAMS  more...
Updated: Feb 25, 2015

Open Resection Rectopexy

A lower midline laparotomy incision is made from umbilicus to pubis. Abdominal wall retractors (eg, Balfour or Bookwalter) are placed. If the uterus is present, the authors place a stitch through it and anchor it to the bladder blade to facilitate exposure.

A thorough exploration of the abdominal cavity is performed. Moist laparotomy pads are used to tuck the transverse colon and the small bowel loops cephalad and to the right, away from the operative field, for adequate exposure of the sigmoid colon and the mesenteric vessels. A St. Mark retractor should be available if the pelvis needs to be accessed.

The assistant holds the sigmoid colon and retracts it medially and upward. The surgeon then starts dissecting along the white line of Toldt (the line of attachment to the parietal peritoneum on the lateral side). The ureter is seen crossing the gonadal vessels at the level of the pelvic brim; it has a characteristic peristaltic movement, resembling the movement of an earthworm.

The medial border of the mesentery is then lifted off the retroperitoneal attachments; this helps in identification of the inferior mesenteric artery (IMA) and other vascular branches. The sigmoid branches of the IMA and the inferior mesenteric vein (IMV) are then ligated beyond the left colic branch and divided. An effort should be made to spare the superior rectal vessels.

Once the colonic segment is mobilized, the descending sigmoid junction is divided with a stapling device. The mesentery is divided, and the superior rectal artery is lifted up. The authors mobilize the rectum posteriorly down to the pelvic floor and then open the anterior cul-de-sac. Peritoneal incisions on the right and left sides are joined in front (anteriorly) in the deep rectovesical/rectouterine pouch. The rectum is now divided just above the pelvic floor.

The descending colon-to-rectum anastomosis is usually performed with a circular stapling device, such as the end-to-end anastomosis (EEA) stapler. The anvil of the EEA stapler is sutured to the distal end of the proximal portion of the colon. The surgeon then stands between the patient’s legs and passes the stapler through the anal canal into the rectum until it reaches the proximal end of the rectal stump.

At this point, the EEA stapler is opened, exposing the spike, which is then attached to the anvil at the other end of the colon. The stapler is then closed and fired to complete the anastomosis. The donuts obtained after stapling are checked to confirm that complete rings have been obtained.

The anastomosis is tested for leaks by placing the patient in the reverse Trendelenburg position and filling the pelvis with saline. A rigid sigmoidoscope may be passed through the anal canal to enable direct visualization of the anastomosis. The colon is clamped proximal to the anastomosis, and air is then insufflated into the rectum via the sigmoidoscope.

The colon is checked for adequate distention with air and for any bubbling of air in the pool of saline in the pelvis. The presence of a stream of bubbles indicates a positive leak test result, in which case an attempt must be made to identify and oversew the leak. In rare cases, a complete revision of the anastomosis is required.

Once the sigmoid colon is resected and sent to pathology, the suture rectopexy is performed. An area is chosen 4-5 cm below the sacral promontory for the inferiormost aspect of fixation. The rectum is pulled superiorly and posteriorly, and several sutures are placed on either side of it to attach it to the presacral fascia. Simple or mattress or running sutures (No. 1 or 2 polypropylene or polydioxanone) are placed on either side; these provide temporary fixation until fibrosis develops between the rectum and the fascia. Fixation of mesh varies.

The abdominal wall is then closed in layers. The fascia is closed with No. 1 polypropylene or polydioxanone continuous suture. The subcutaneous tissue can be approximated with 3-0 polyglactin interrupted ties. Skin can be closed with staples or with 4-0 poliglecaprone subcuticular sutures.

Drainage must also be adequately addressed.


Laparoscopic Resection Rectopexy

The placement of laparoscopic ports is crucial to the dissection of the tissues and is similar to that used in laparoscopic sigmoid resection. The camera port (5 mm or 10 mm, depending on the camera being used) is inserted in the periumbilical area with either the Hassan (open) or Optiview technique (with or without the Veress needle). The additional 5-mm ports are inserted under direct vision in the right upper quadrant (RUQ) and the left lower quadrant (LLQ). A 1-mm port is placed in the right lower quadrant (RLQ), 2 cm below and medial to the anterior superior iliac spine.

The patient is then placed in deep Trendelenburg position with a tilt to the right so that the small bowel is retracted to the RUQ. Of the two possible approaches, the authors prefer the medial-to-lateral approach.

The redundant sigmoid is lifted up, placing the mesentery on traction. The sacral promontory is a useful guide. The mesorectum is opened just in front of the promontory on the right and extended both superiorly and inferiorly. Care is taken to spare the hypogastric nerves in front and below the sacral promontory. Further dissection of the mesentery is carried out laterally and retroperitoneal structures such as the ureters, the gonadal vessels and the iliac vessels are identified and preserved.

Once this is done, the sigmoid vascular pedicle (distal to the left colic artery) is isolated and divided with either a Harmonic or LigaSure dissector or an endoscopic gastrointestinal anastomosis (Endo-GIA) stapler. Care is taken to spare the superior rectal vessels. Next, the rectum is mobilized from its attachments (Waldeyer and lateral rectal fascia and anterior cul-de-sac). The rectum is divided with an endoscopic linear stapler.

Next, the proximal sigmoid colon is mobilized until reach from the descending colon to the rectum is possible. Gas is then exsufflated through the ports, and a 5-cm extraction incision is made. The sigmoid colon can be exteriorized by making a Pfannenstiel incision or by widening the 5-mm port incision in the LLQ or the umbilical port. The proximal sigmoid colon is then divided, and an anvil is placed either with a purse-string device or a running 2-0 polypropylene suture.

The descending colon-to-rectum anastomosis is usually performed with a circular stapling device. The colorectal anastomosis is performed in much the same fashion as in the open technique (see above) and is also checked for any leaks. This is done laparoscopically once the abdomen has been reinsufflated after closure of the extraction site. The resected specimen is sent to pathology for histologic analysis.

Once the integrity of the anastomosis is confirmed, the rectopexy is performed by placing at least one stitch between each of the lateral stalks of the rectum to the presacral fascia laparoscopically. Alternatively, laparoscopic tacks can be used (the authors’ preference).

Once this is done, the ports are removed. The extraction site incision is closed in layers, in much the same manner as a laparotomy wound. The fascia of the 12-mm port is also closed separately to prevent hernia formation. The skin is closed with either skin staples or 4-0 poliglecaprone subcuticular sutures.

Robotic-assisted laparoscopic resection rectopexy has also been attempted and found to be comparable with regard to complications and recurrence rates, at least in short-term follow-up, and to be associated with higher costs and longer operating times.[9] The cost and longer duration of the robotic procedure has yet to be rigorously weighed against the shorter length of stay and reduced morbidity.


Postprocedural Care

Postoperatively, the patient is extubated and transferred to the recovery room for appropriate monitoring before transfer to the floor. The patient is given nothing orally, except for oral medications and sips of clear fluids. Intravenous fluids and intravenous pain medication are continued for as long as 24 hours. Antiembolic stockings are continued, and agents for prophylaxis of deep vein thrombosis (eg, low-molecular weight heparin) are started on postoperative day 0.

Alvimopan is continued for 7 days or until the patient has had flatus or bowel movement. After 24 hours, the patient's diet is advanced as tolerated, and the patient is weaned off the intravenous fluids. The Foley catheter is removed on postoperative day 1. The patient is encouraged to ambulate and perform incentive spirometry to prevent atelectasis.

Daily laboratory tests are performed, including at least a complete blood count (CBC) with differential and basic metabolic panel, for the first 48 hours or as indicated. Discharge criteria include tolerating liquids, passing flatus, and adequate analgesia and ambulation. High-fiber diet and soft laxatives are used to avoid constipation.

Follow-up in the office 14 days after surgery is the ideal for standard postoperative care.



Early complications include the following:

  • General complications (eg, hemorrhage, deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, urinary tract infection, atelectasis/pneumonia, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure)
  • Wound infection (both superficial and deep), wound dehiscence and evisceration
  • Intraoperative complications (eg, ureteral injury, vaginal injury)
  • Deep pelvic infection
  • Presacral hemorrhage
  • Prolonged paralytic ileus
  • Anastomotic leak

Late complications include the following:

  • Anastomotic stricture
  • Recurrence of rectal prolapse (0-10% for both open and laparoscopic techniques)
  • Bowel obstruction secondary to adhesions
  • Incisional hernia
  • Sexual/urinary dysfunction (due to autonomic nerve injury)
  • Loss of rectal reservoir function, which may result in urgency and diarrhea

Although the list of possible complications is long, complication rates in expert hands are low. Surgical site infection is the most common postoperative complication. Patients and referring physicians should look at hospital data such as Leapfrog safety ratings to evaluate outcomes.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Abhiman Cheeyandira, MD Resident Physician, Department of General Surgery, Hahnemann University Hospital, Philadelphia

Abhiman Cheeyandira, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons, Royal College of Surgeons of England

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


David E Stein, MD Chief, Division of Colorectal Surgery, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, Director, Mini-Medical School Program, Drexel University College of Medicine; Chief, Division of Colorectal Surgery, Department of Surgery, Hahneman University Hospital; Consultant, Merck; Consultant, Ethicon Endo-Surgery; Consultant, Health Partners; Consultant, Cook Surgical

David E Stein, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons, American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, Association for Surgical Education, Pennsylvania Medical Society, Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America

Disclosure: Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for: Merck<br/>Serve(d) as a speaker or a member of a speakers bureau for: Merck.

Leandro Feo, MD Resident Physician, Department of General Surgery, Hahnemann University Hospital, Drexel University College of Medicine

Leandro Feo, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Vinay Kumar Kapoor, MBBS, MS, FRCS, FAMS Professor of Surgical Gastroenterology, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, India

Vinay Kumar Kapoor, MBBS, MS, FRCS, FAMS is a member of the following medical societies: Association of Surgeons of India, Indian Association of Surgical Gastroenterology, Indian Society of Gastroenterology, Medical Council of India, National Academy of Medical Sciences (India), Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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