A second look at anorectal infections in cancer patients in a large cancer institute: The success of early intervention with antibiotics and surgery

T. Lehrnbecher, D. Marshall, C. Gao, S. J. Chanock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Infection of anorectal region represents a significant compilication of anti-cancer therapy. Anorectal infection occurs in patients receiving aggressive chemotherapy. Untreated infection leads to substantial morbidity and in the past, mortality. Methods: 82 episodes of anorectal infection in 64 patients with malignant diseases occurring over 12 years at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) were retrospectively reviewed. Results: The overall incidence is comparable to the prior NCI experience despite a shift in patient population to a lower percentage of lymphoid/leukemic diagnoses (34% vs 77%). There were no deaths associated with anorectal infection in the 12 years reviewed compared to seven of 44 in the previous decade (p = 0.003). Antibiotic therapy alone was successful in managing 52/82 episodes, whereas surgery and antibiotics were required in 25/82. Only five episodes were treated with surgery alone compared to nearly 45% in the previous decade. There were no major surgical complications. Neutropenia was present in 43/82 episodes. 11 episodes were complicated by bacteremia, predominately with Staphylococcus non-aureus (n = 8). Wound cultures were performed in 36 episodes from 23 patients yielding 99 separate isolates. Gram-negative isolates were most common overall. Modification of antibiotic therapy with further anaerobic coverage was administered successfully in 39/77 episodes. Conclusion: This study illustrates that anorectal infections in cancer patients can be successfully managed with antibiotic therapy and local care; surgery can be withheld unless there is evidence of progressive infection or substantial fluctuance and necrosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-276
Number of pages5
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 17 2002


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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