BACKGROUND: The use of the vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap in reconstruction after abdominoperineal resection or pelvic exenteration for neoplasia is well documented. However, functional outcomes after vaginal reconstruction, including sexual function, are poorly described.
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to examine sexual function in women following extensive pelvic surgery with colpectomy and vaginal reconstruction with the use of a vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap.
DESIGN: This study is a retrospective review of medical records in combination with patient questionnaires. Nonresponders were followed up with a second contact.
SETTINGS: This study was performed at a tertiary care university medical center (Colorectal Section, Department of Surgery P, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark)
PATIENTS: All women undergoing pelvic surgery and simultaneous vaginal reconstruction with the use of a vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap between 2004 and 2010 at our department were identified from a patient database. Thirty women who were alive at the time of identification were included in the study.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sexual function before and after surgery was evaluated by the use of the Sexual function Vaginal changes Questionnaire. The main outcome end point was whether the patient was sexually active after vaginal reconstruction.
RESULTS: Twenty-six participants (87%) answered the questionnaire. Fifty percent of patients reported an active sex life before surgery. In general, patients reported an unchanged desire for both physical and sexual contact after surgery. However, only 2 patients (14%) reported being sexually active after surgery.
LIMITATIONS: This was a retrospective study with a heterogeneous cohort involving several types of cancers and surgical procedures. Factors other than vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap reconstruction itself may interfere with the sexual function.
CONCLUSION: Extensive pelvic surgery with colpectomy leads to sexual dysfunction even when the vagina is reconstructed with a vertical rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap. This knowledge may improve the quality of information given to this group of patients before surgery.