What is LARS - Low Anterior Resection Syndrome?

A low anterior resection is a type of surgery to remove bowel cancer in the rectum.
After your rectum is removed, the two healthy ends of the bowel are joined back together, allowing stool to pass through your bowel. Sometimes a temporary stoma is formed to allow the join to heal. Once it has healed, the stoma can usually be reversed.

After surgery, it’s normal for your bowel habits to change. A low anterior resection can lead to bowel problems because your rectum, the part of your bowel that normally stores stool has been removed. The nerves and muscles in your bowel may also be affected. These symptoms are known as low anterior resection syndrome and can occur after stoma reversal.

What are the symptoms of LARS?

Everyone is different but symptoms can include some or several of the following:

  • Variable, unpredictable bowel pattern
  • Altered stool consistency
  • Increased stool frequency
  • Repeated painful stools
  • Emptying difficulties
  • Urgency (having to rush to get to the toilet)
  • Incontinence (leakage of stool)
  • Soiling

These symptoms of LARS may lead to faecal incontinence or constipation. They are unpredictable and can be more of a problem at some times than others. Living with LARS can be frustrating as it can affect all aspects of your daily life and activities. Sometimes people are not comfortable being far from a toilet, and it can make you tired if you’re having to get up a lot during the night. It can affect your return to work and working life, your social life and your sex life. It’s important to find the best way to manage symptoms.

How common is LARS?

The incidence of LARS varies but is estimated to affect up to 40% of patients who have had this type of surgery. It is important to be aware of the symptoms. Do not suffer in silence, treatment is available including rectal irrigation.

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