Post-treatment fistulas in patients with rectal cancer: MRI with rectal superparamagnetic contrast agent.
ABSTRACT MRI is the standard modality in the pre- and post-treatment evaluation of patients with rectal cancer, particularly in those cases with locally advanced disease. We routinely employ a superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) contrast enema to distend the rectal lumen and achieve maximal tumor-to-lumen contrast gradient. This practice also allowed the identification of a fistula in 24% of patients treated for rectal cancer. Contrast agent-related low intensity signal could be seen filling the tract and eventually opacifying surrounding organs (i.e., vagina) or collections (i.e., presacral abscess). Fistula formation after radiochemotherapy and surgery for rectal cancer is not uncommon. MRI with dark lumen contrast enema allows an effective demonstration of this complication in a high number of patients.