Preoperative Staging of Rectal Cancer with MR Imaging: Correlation with Surgical and Histopathologic Findings1
Rectal cancer is a common malignancy that continues to have a highly variable outcome, with local pelvic recurrence after surgical resection usually leading to incurable disease. The success of tumor excision depends largely upon accurate tumor staging and appropriate surgical technique, although the results of recent surgical trials indicate that evaluation of the involvement of the mesorectal fat and mesorectal fascia is even more important than T staging for treatment planning. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is increasingly being used to evaluate tumor resectability in patients with rectal cancer and to determine which patients can be treated with surgery alone and which will require radiation therapy to promote tumor regression. High-spatial-resolution MR imaging has proved useful in clarifying the relationship between a tumor and the mesorectal fascia, which represents the circumferential resection margin at total mesorectal excision. Phased-array surface coil MR imaging in particular plays a vital role in the therapeutic management of rectal cancer. At present, phased-array MR imaging best fulfills the clinical requirements for preoperative staging of rectal cancer. However, preoperative evaluation of the other prognostic factor, nodal status, is still problematic, and further studies will be needed to better define the role of MR imaging in this context.