Long-term outcome of rubber band ligation for symptomatic primary and recurrent internal hemorrhoids.
Rubber band ligation therapy for symptomatic hemorrhoidal disease has been used for many years and is a well-accepted treatment modality, but information on long-term outcome is limited. Our goals were to determine safety and long-term efficacy of this treatment. A retrospective chart review of patients undergoing rubber band ligatures for symptomatic internal hemorrhoids in a single practice was conducted. Information on presenting symptoms, number of bands applied, response to therapy, complications encountered, length of follow-up, interval to recurrent symptoms when applicable, and subsequent therapy were documented. Supplemental information was obtained from telephone follow-up. Outcome was categorized as success or failure, in which success was defined as: permanent relief of symptoms for follow-up period; marked improvement in symptomatology with rare manifestation of bleeding (< or = 1/month); symptom relief for a limited period of time (> or = 100 days), and failure was defined as: modest improvement (decreased but not relief of symptoms); or no improvement in symptoms. A total of 805 patients underwent 2,114 rubber band ligatures. Most common presenting symptoms were bleeding in 731 patients (90.8 percent) and prolapsing in 382 patients (47.5 percent). The median number of bands placed was two (range, 1-17). The median time between bandings was 4.7 (range, 1.1-35.6) weeks. Median follow-up time was 1,204 (range, 14-9,571) days. Excluding 104 patients lost to follow-up (never returned after initial treatment), success was obtained in 70.5 percent (494/701) and failure in 29.5 percent (207/701) of patients. Success rates were similar for all degrees of hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoidal disease requiring the placement of four or more bands was associated with a trend in higher failure rates and greater need for subsequent hemorrhoidectomy. Complications per treatment series included bleeding (2.8 percent), thrombosed external hemorrhoids (1.5 percent), and bacteremia (0.09 percent). Higher bleeding rates were encountered with the use of acetylsalicylic acid/nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and warfarin. Time to recurrence was less with subsequent treatment courses. Treatment of recurrent symptoms with rubber band ligation resulted in success rates of 73.6, 61.4, and 65 percent for first, second, and third recurrences respectively. This resulted in a cumulative success rate of 80.2 percent for this method of treatment. Rubber band ligatures are safe and effective therapy for symptomatic internal hemorrhoids. It can be used to treat all degrees of hemorrhoids with similar effectiveness. The likelihood of success is lower if more than four bands are needed to eliminate symptoms. The use of acetylsalicylic acid/nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and warfarin is associated with higher bleeding rates. Rubber band ligatures for recurrence of symptoms is effective; however, time to recurrence is less with subsequent treatments.