Anal Surgery for Hemorrhoids

Updated: Jul 27, 2017
  • Author: Vassiliki Liana Tsikitis, MD, MCR, FACS, FASCRS; Chief Editor: Kurt E Roberts, MD  more...
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Overview

Background

Hemorrhoids result from disruption of the anchoring of the anal cushions. They occur most commonly in the right anterior position and are associated with straining and irregular bowel habits. During defecation, straining engorges the cushions, resulting in their displacement. Repetition of this displacement results in stretching and eventual prolapse of the anal cushions, known as hemorrhoids (see the image below).

Hemorrhoids. Image reproduced from original with p Hemorrhoids. Image reproduced from original with permission of the American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons.

Constipation and all conditions that result in abnormal anal pressure and compliance predispose to the formation of hemorrhoids. Acquired conditions such as portal hypertension cause engorgement of these venous plexuses, which can also contribute to anal cushion displacement. Pregnancy can also cause or aggravate symptoms; direct pressure may play a role, but other factors (eg, hormonal fluctuations) may contribute.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and consistent diarrhea can cause hemorrhoidal disease. Any patient with a combination of hemorrhoidal and IBD should be viewed with caution. [1]

Classification

Hemorrhoids may be broadly classified as either external or internal. External hemorrhoids are located distal to the dentate line and cause pain when they thrombose. This area is covered with sensate squamous epithelium, and thus, the patient typically reports pain, swelling, itching, or a combination of these symptoms.

Internal hemorrhoids are located proximal to the dentate line. This area is composed of insensate columnar-glandular epithelium. Internal hemorrhoids bleed, prolapse, or both. Patients typically present with sudden painless bleeding, usually after a bowel movement. Patients should undergo anoscopic examination or colonoscopy to rule out malignancy or diverticular disease.

Internal hemorrhoids may be graded as follows:

  • Grade I (primary) - These slide below the dentate line with strain but retract with relaxation; patients are typically treated with dietary changes, including increased fiber intake; if hemorrhoids persist, sclerotherapy or rubber band ligation may be offered
  • Grade II (secondary) - These prolapse past the anal verge but reduce spontaneously; patients are typically treated with sclerotherapy or rubber band ligation
  • Grade III (tertiary) - These prolapse past the anal verge and must be reduced manually; depending on the size of the hemorrhoids and the symptoms noted, patients may be treated with sclerotherapy, rubber band ligation, or surgery
  • Grade IV (quaternary) - These prolapse past the anal verge and are not reducible; surgical treatment (eg, hemorrhoidectomy) is indicated [1]
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Indications

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, hemorrhoids are managed either medically or surgically.

The 2010 practice parameters published by the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) provide recommendations for evaluating patients with hemorrhoids, for identifying patients who require endoscopic evaluation of the colon, and for treatment options such as diet modification, office-based procedures, and surgical hemorrhoidectomy. [2]

In general, the treatment options vary by hemorrhoid severity or grade. For example, office-based procedures are reserved for patients with grades I, II, and III hemorrhoids and who have failed medical management. Surgical treatment of hemorrhoid disease is customarily offered for patients whose disease does not respond to or who are not able to tolerate office-based procedures, as well as for patients with large external hemorrhoids or grade III/IV combined internal/external hemorrhoids.

For grade I and II hemorrhoids, medical treatment is indicated as first-line management. Medical treatment consists of dietary changes and bulk-forming agents. Dietary management is the first line of therapy. Patients are advised to ingest adequate fiber and water and avoid straining. This conservative management is effective for hemorrhoids with lesser degrees of prolapse. [3, 4]

For grade I and II hemorrhoids—as well as some prolapsed grade II hemorrhoids and some grade III hemorrhoids—and for cases in which medical management is not adequate, an office procedure may be indicated. Such procedures include the following:

  • Rubber band ligation
  • Infrared photocoagulation
  • Electrocoagulation
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Cryotherapy

Surgery is reserved for cases in which conservative management is not adequate—for instance, hemorrhoids refractory to office procedures, large external hemorrhoids, hemorrhoids with significant bleeding, and prolapsed internal hemorrhoids. The following surgical procedures may be indicated, with excisional hemorrhoidectomy being the gold standard:

  • Open vs closed excisional hemorrhoidectomy
  • Transanal hemorrhoidal artery ligation (HAL)
  • Stapled hemorrhoidopexy
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Contraindications

Contraindications for office treatments include the following:

  • Anal stenosis
  • Bleeding hemorrhoids
  • Grade III or IV hemorrhoids
  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or blood thinners
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Technical Considerations

Anatomy

Hemorrhoidal cushions are anal cushions of tissue composed of blood vessels, smooth muscle, and connective tissue. These cushions are located in the upper anal canal at three different sites: left lateral, right anterolateral, and right posterolateral. They are separate structures rather than a continuous ring of vascular tissue and therefore allow the anal canal to dilate during defecation without tearing.

Anal cushions are thought to aid in anal continence, though their function is not entirely understood. During the act of defecation, the anal cushions become engorged and tense with blood, cushioning the anal canal lining.

The anal canal above the dentate line is supplied by the terminal branches of the superior rectal (hemorrhoidal) artery, which is the terminal branch of the inferior mesenteric artery. The middle rectal artery (a branch of the internal iliac artery) and the inferior rectal artery (a branch of the internal pudendal artery) supply the lower anal canal. For more information about the relevant anatomy, see Anal Canal Anatomy.

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Outcomes

Xu et al carried out a meta-analysis of five randomized, controlled trials with the aim of evaluating the outcomes of LigaSure (Covidien, Minneapolis, MN) hemorrhoidectomy against those of Ferguson hemorrhoidectomy. [5]  In the 318 patients who met the inclusion criteria, LigaSure hemorrhoidectomy was associated with lower urinary retention rates, lower early postoperative pain scores, shorter operating times, shorter hospital stays, and less intraoperative blood loss.

De Nardi et al performed a prospective randomized trial to assess the short- and long-term results of Doppler-guided transanal hemorrhoid dearterialization with mucopexy against those of excision hemorrhoidectomy in patients with grade III hemorrhoids. [6]  They found the two approaches to be similar with respect to postoperative pain, postoperative morbidity, and long-term cure rate.

Trenti et al, in a single-center longitudinal study evaluating Doppler-guided transanal hemorrhoidal dearterialization with mucopexy against conventional excisional hemorrhoidectomy for grade III-IV hemorrhoids, found that the former was not inferior to the latter with regard to postoperative complications and long-term recurrence of symptoms. [7]  The overall rate of urinary retention and postoperative hemorrhoid thrombosis was higher in the HAL group, though the difference was not statistically significant.

A 2006 Cochrane review examined differences in outcomes between stapled hemorrhoidopexy and conventional excisional hemorrhoidectomy. [8]  The study showed significant increases in the recurrence rate and the need for additional procedures in the stapled hemorrhoidopexy group.

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