The incidence of anastomotic stricture following colorectal surgery has increased in recent years. This complication is observed in 2-5% of all operated patients and is probably due to the greater number of low anastomoses performed with surgical staplers.
We observed 31 patients with postoperative stricture, arising from one to nine months post-surgery. All patients had been treated for colorectal cancer and underwent endoscopy either during routine follow-up or for symptoms of stenosis. In 16 patients (group A) the stricture diameter was less than 4 mm and the patients had symptoms attributable to partial bowel obstruction. In the remaining 15 patients (group B), who had difficult bowel movements, the stricture diameter ranged from 4 to 8 mm. All patients were treated with endoscopic dilation using achalasia balloons. The results were considered good when the post-dilation anastomosis diameter achieved was at least 13 mm, fair when it was 9-12 mm and poor when it was less than 9 mm. The short term results (3 weeks) were good in 27 patients (87.2%), fair in 3 patients (9.6%), and poor in 1 patient (3.2%). After several unsuccessful dilations, the latter was treated by surgery. Follow-up at 3-4 months of the remaining 30 patients revealed good results in 20 (66.6%), fair in 6 (20%), and poor in 4 (13.3%). In 1 of these 4 patients, cancer recurrence was observed and a new surgical resection was performed. In 2 patients a self–expandable metal stent was inserted for 4-6 weeks, with satisfactory results. In 1 patient a biodegradable polydioxanone stent was inserted with good results after 6 months.
Follow-up at 3-4 months showed good results in 25 patients. After 38 months, cancer recurrence in the area of the anastomosis was observed in 1 patient, who was treated surgically.
Endoscopic dilatation should be considered the first therapeutic approach in case of anastomotic strictures, as it is immediately effective, repeatable, and does not preclude surgery if this should become necessary.