Objective To measure changes in patients' quality of life following reversal of a defunctioning ileostomy in patients who had a curative anterior resection for rectal cancer.
Patients and methods Twenty consecutive patients undergoing reversal of a loop ileostomy following low anterior resection for primary rectal cancer participated. They answered three quality of life questionnaires: the European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) QLQ-C30 and QLQ-CR38, and the SF-36. Questionnaires were answered before reversal, on discharge home, and at 3 and 6 months postoperatively.
Results Reversal of the defunctioning ileostomy resulted in significant improvements in global quality of life, physical function, social function, role-physical and energy-vitality scores. Post-operative diarrhoea and frequency improved over six months, but one third of patients had mild incontinence of faeces which did not improve with time. Emotional function, mental health, future perspective, perception of body image and general health perception did not change significantly after reversal. There was a significant negative correlation between defaecation-related problems, global quality of life and body image.
Conclusion Reversal of a defunctioning loop ileostomy improves most patients' overall quality of life. Therefore, once it is considered safe to reverse a stoma, an early operation may give the patient a longer time with an improved quality of life.