Argon plasma coagulation for rectal bleeding after prostate brachytherapy

Stephen Smith, Kent Wallner, Jason A. Dominitz, Ben Han, Lawrence True, Steven Sutlief, Kevin Billingsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Purpose: To better define the efficacy and safety of argon plasma coagulation (APC), specifically for brachytherapy-related proctitis, we reviewed the clinical course of 7 patients treated for persistent rectal bleeding. Approximately 2-10% of prostate cancer patients treated with 125I or 103Pd brachytherapy will develop radiation proctitis. The optimum treatment for patients with persistent bleeding is unclear from the paucity of available data. Prior reports lack specific dosimetric information, and patients with widely divergent forms of radiation were grouped together in the analyses. Methods and Materials: Seven patients were treated with APC at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington from 1997 to 1999 for persistent rectal bleeding due to prostate brachytherapy-related proctitis. Four patients received supplemental external beam radiation, delivered by a four-field technique. A single gastroenterologist at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System treated 6 of the 7 patients. If the degree of proctitis was limited, all sites of active bleeding were coagulated in symptomatic patients. An argon plasma coagulator electrosurgical system was used to administer treatments every 4-8 weeks as needed. The argon gas flow was set at 1.6 L/min, with an electrical power setting of 40-45 W. Results: The rectal V100 (the total rectal volume, including the lumen, receiving the prescription dose or greater) for the 7 patients ranged from 0.13 to 4.61 cc. Rectal bleeding was first noticed 3-18 months after implantation. APC (range 1-3 sessions) was performed 9-22 months after implantation. Five patients had complete resolution of their bleeding, usually within days of completing APC. Two patients had only partial relief from bleeding, but declined additional APC therapy. No patient developed clinically evident progressive rectal wall abnormalities after APC, (post-APC follow-up range 4-13 months). Conclusions: Most patients benefited from APC, and no cases of clinically evident progressive tissue destruction were noted. Although APC appears to be efficacious and safe in the setting of the rectal doses described here, caution is in order when contemplating APC for brachytherapy patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-642
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2001


  • Argon
  • Brachytherapy
  • Laser
  • Proctitis
  • Prostate cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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