Sacrococcygeal dimensions and curvature are associated with resection quality in rectal cancer excision



Technical factors affect oncologic outcomes in rectal cancer surgery. The anatomy of the bony pelvis can affect technical aspects of surgery, but is seldom considered preoperatively. We performed a morphometric analysis of the bony pelvis in patients having rectal cancer resection to assess its effect on surgical specimen quality.


We performed a retrospective analysis of a prospectively maintained database of patients who had resection for rectal cancer from January 2014 to December 2017. Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) images were accessed and measurements of sacrococcygeal distance, sacrococcygeal recess depth/area, sacrococcygeal angulation, anteroposterior pelvic inlet/outlet, pubic height and interspinous distance were made. Outcome measures included anatomical variation, operating time and mesorectal specimen grade. In patients having extra-levator abdominoperineal excision (eLAPE) with coccygectomy, the completeness of coccygeal resection was assessed by postoperative CT scan. Data were analysed using binomial and multinomial logistic regression and linear regression.


One hundred and twenty-two consecutive rectal cancer resections were performed (39 open, 42 laparoscopic, 12 laparoscopic-converted and 29 robotic). The median age was 72 years (range: 29–88 years). The male:female ratio was 83:39. Eighty-one patients had anterior resection, 8 had low Hartmann’s resection and 32 had APE. Of those who had APE, 21 had eLAPE (all with coccygectomy).

Females had a larger pelvic inlet (female: 124.9 mm, male: 114.9 mm), interspinous diameter(female:112.8 mm, male:97.6 mm), sacrococcygeal depth (female:42.6 mm, 39.35 mm) and sacrococcygeal area recess than males (female: 3697 mm2, male: 3481.5 mm2). Males had a greater pubic height (female: 51.8 mm, male: 54.05 mm) and greater sacrococcygeal distance (female: 116.7 mm, male: 123.65 mm) than females.

In patients having anterior resection, tumour distance from the anal verge (p = 0.004), sacrococcygeal distance (p = 0.006) and sacrococcygeal curvature (p = 0.002) were associated with specimen quality. In patients who had eLAPE, median preoperative coccygeal length was 41 mm (IQR: 35.1–45.5). The median length of coccygeal resection was 9 mm (IQR: 1–17.45 mm). The median length of coccyx remaining postoperatively was 33 mm (IQR: 21.35–39 mm).


Sacrococcygeal curvature and distance as well as tumour distance from the anal margin were associated with specimen quality in anterior resection. Coccygectomy was not performed as completely as surgeons thought. Surgeons should include sacrococcygeal bony anatomy in rectal cancer surgical planning to potentially improve outcomes in both anterior resection and eLAPE approaches.

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Correspondence to G. Simpson.

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Simpson, G., Marks, T., Blacker, S. et al. Sacrococcygeal dimensions and curvature are associated with resection quality in rectal cancer excision. Tech Coloproctol (2020).

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  • Pelvic volumetry
  • Rectal cancer
  • Bony pelvis