Pelvic fat volume reduction with preoperative very low energy diet (VLED): implications for rectal cancer surgery in the obese

S. Bell, P. Malouf, N. Johnson, R. Wale, Q. Peng, P. Nottle, S. Warrier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Obese patients have higher complication rates after pelvic surgery. Laparoscopic rectal surgery may not be possible in the obese individual due to mesorectal, total pelvic and general visceral fat volumes. Very low energy diets reduce visceral fat but the changes within the pelvis and mesorectum are unknown. The aim of the present study was to quantify the proportion of fat lost from total pelvic and mesorectal fat with a very low energy diet (VLED) and define simple, accessible measurements that correlate with expected volume reduction. Methods: A study was conducted on proportion change in mesorectal and intrapelvic fat volumes in patients on a VLED prior to bariatric surgery at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. The VLED was a standardized 4-week meal replacement. Proportion change in mesorectal and intrapelvic fat volumes were measured. Patients had standardized pre-diet and post-diet magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pelvis. Body mass index, weight and girth measures were obtained. Adipose quantification analysis was performed using Q-Fat. Results: Nine patients were included in this study, who were preparing for bariatric (not colorectal) surgery (5 females, median age 42 years, range 27–59 years) pre-protocol body mass index was 55.8 (range 39.5–60.6 kg/m2); median weight was 163 kg. Median mesorectal fat reduction was 29.9% (range 11.6–66.6%). Linear regression showed a relationship between the amount of mesorectal fat reduction and two variables: patient height and the distance from S1 to the posterior aspect of the rectum on MRI. The relationship predicted response to the diet (R2 67%, p = 0.040). Conclusions: Very low energy diets result in a clinically significant reduction in mesorectal fat with a lesser change in total pelvic fat, suggesting that very low energy diets may be useful for preparation for pelvic surgery in the obese. The distance from S1 to the posterior rectum correlates well with mesorectal reduction, making this a valuable clinical tool when volumetric analysis is not possible. This analysis is limited to the quantification of the effect of the diet and cannot comment on the safety of this approach before pelvic cancer surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)887-892
Number of pages6
JournalTechniques in Coloproctology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Diet therapy
  • Obesity
  • Operative
  • Rectum
  • Surgical procedures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Gastroenterology


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