Each year, more than 2.2 million patients in the United States undergo evaluations for symptoms of hemorrhoids, according to updated guidelines on the management of hemorrhoids issued by the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
“As a result, it is important to identify symptomatic hemorrhoids as the underlying source of the anorectal symptom and to have a clear understanding of the evaluation and management of this disease process,” wrote, chief of colon and rectal surgery at the Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, N.C., and the fellow members of the Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee of the ASCRS.
The guidelines recommend evaluation of hemorrhoids based on a disease-specific history, and a physical that emphasizes the degree and duration of symptoms and identifies risk factors. But the guideline writers note that the recommendation is a grade 1C because the supporting data mainly come from observational or case studies.
“The cardinal signs of internal hemorrhoids are painless bleeding with bowel movements with intermittent protrusion,” the committee said, also emphasizing that patients should be evaluated for fecal incontinence, which could inform surgical decision making.
In addition, the guidelines call for a complete endoscopic evaluation of the colon for patients who present with symptomatic hemorrhoids and rectal bleeding; this recommendation is based on moderately strong evidence, and presented with a grade of 1B.
Medical management of hemorrhoids may include office-based procedures or surgery, according to the guidelines.
“Most patients with grade I and II and select patients with grade III internal hemorrhoidal disease who fail medical treatment can be effectively treated with office-based procedures, such as banding, sclerotherapy, and infrared coagulation,” the committee wrote, and medical office treatment received a strong grade 1A recommendation based on high-quality evidence. Although office procedures are generally well tolerated, the condition can recur. Bleeding is the most common complication, and it is more likely after rubber-band ligation than other office-based options, the guidelines state.
The guidelines offer a weak recommendation of 2C, based on the lack of quality evidence, for the use of early surgical excision to treat patients with thrombosed external hemorrhoids. “Although most patients treated nonoperatively will experience eventual resolution of their symptoms, excision of thrombosed external hemorrhoids may result in more rapid symptom resolution, lower incidence of recurrence, and longer remission intervals,” the committee noted.
Surgical hemorrhoidectomy received the strongest possible recommendation (1A, based on high-quality evidence) for the treatment of patients with external hemorrhoids or a combination of internal and external hemorrhoids with prolapse.
Surgical options described in the recommendations include surgical excision (hemorrhoidectomy), hemorrhoidopexy, and Doppler-guided hemorrhoidectomy, with citations of studies on each procedure. Data from a meta-analysis of 18 randomized prospective studies comparing hemorrhoidectomy with office-based procedures showed that hemorrhoidectomy was “the most effective treatment for patients with grade III hemorrhoids,” but it was associated with greater pain and complication rates, according to the guidelines.
However, complications in general are low after surgical hemorrhoidectomy, with reported complication rates of 1%-2% for the most common complication of postprocedure hemorrhage, the guidelines state. After surgery, the guidelines recommend with a 1B grade (moderate quality evidence) that patients use “a multimodality pain regimen to reduce narcotic usage and promote a faster recovery.”
The committee members had no financial conflicts to disclose.
SOURCE: Davis BR et al. Dis Colon Rectum. .