Aims: We evaluate prospectively effectiveness, tolerance, predictive factors of failure and complications of argon plasma coagulation (APC) in the treatment of hemorrhagic radiation proctitis (HRP).
Patients and methods: Twenty-seven patients were treated by APC for HRP. Eight patients needed blood transfusion before APC. Six patients were anti-coagulated and one had severe thrombocytopenia. APC was performed without sedation in 25/27 patients. Before APC treatment, bowel preparation was performed by enema (n = 19 sessions), polyethylene glycol or sodium phosphate (n = 53 sessions). APC treatment was performed every 5 weeks. Effectiveness of APC was based on clinical and endoscopic score and biological status before and after APC treatment.
Results: The mean follow-up was 13.6 months (range, 3–31 months). After one to seven sessions of APC (average, 2.66 sessions), twenty-five patients (92%) had no recurrence of bleeding. The bleeding score decreased from 3.03 to 0.42 (P < 0.001) and the endoscopic score from 3.08 to 0.73 (P < 0.001). Out of the eight patients requiring blood transfusion prior to APC sessions, only one required blood transfusion after APC (P < 0.05). One late relapse was observed and successfully re-treated by APC. Side effects were anal or rectal pain (n = 3) and vagal symptoms (n = 2). Three colonic explosions occurred, with perforation leading to surgery in one case. The incidence of bowel explosion was higher after local preparation (3/19 sessions) compared with oral preparation (0/53 sessions) (P < 0.05). No stricture due to APC appeared, even if telangiectasias coagulated during a session were circumferential.
Conclusion: Coagulation by APC is an effective and safe treatment of HRP if a complete cleansing preparation is performed to avoid explosion.