: Low rectal cancers are associated with worse outcomes in comparison with mid and upper rectal tumors.
: This study aimed to assess the predictive accuracy of MRI in identifying the correct surgical approach based on the mesorectal and extralevator planes.
: This study involved the retrospective analysis of MRI and histopathology data of 33 patients with low rectal cancer, with the use of an anatomically based staging system. Three radiologists reported on the available surgical planes of excision based on the predicted relationship of tumor to key anatomical features. MRI-predicted planes of excision were then compared with the histopathological planes actually required, with the use of the same staging criteria.
: The study was conducted at 4 English district general hospitals.
: Unselected patients with low rectal cancer, all of whom were participants in a multicenter study, were eligible for this study.
: The main outcome measured was the accuracy of operative plane prediction on MRI.
: On pathological analysis, the mesorectal plane would have been sufficient to achieve a clear margin in 28 of 33 (84.9%) of cases. The extralevator plane was required in 5 of 33 (15.1%). Planes were correctly predicted by MRI in 29 of 33 cases by radiologist 1 and 24 of 33 cases by radiologists 2 and 3 with an accuracy of 87.9% and 72.7%. Overstaging (extralevator plane predicted when a mesorectal plane would have sufficed) occurred in 3 of 33 and 7 of 33 cases. Understaging (mesorectal plane predicted when an extralevator plane was required) occurred in 1 of 33 and 2 of 33 cases. The positive and negative predictive values of MRI in determining the histopathological plane of excision required were 57% and 96% for radiologist 1 and 30% and 91% for radiologists 2 and 3.
: This study was limited by its retrospective nature and its relatively small patient numbers. No account was taken of postoperative function when recommending the surgical plane.
: This supports an anatomically based MRI staging system for low rectal cancer to predict the planes of surgical excision. This may help to reduce margin positivity and to improve outcome in patients with low rectal cancer.