Laparoscopic dissection of Denonvilliers’ fascia and implications for total mesorectal excision for treatment of rectal cancer



To inspect Denonvilliers’ fascia and its relationship with neighboring oncologically and functionally important anatomic structures by laparoscopic approach.


A total of 112 patients with middle or low rectal cancer were successfully treated by laparoscopic total mesorectal excision (TME). Digital versatile disk (DVD) recordings were retrieved for scrutiny of the whole dissection process of Denonvilliers’ fascia and its contiguous anatomic structures.


As highlighted in the attached video footage, for nearly all male patients (91%, n = 58), the boundaries of Denonvilliers’ fascia could be clearly recognized by laparoscopy. Denonvilliers’ fascia, varying in nature from a fragile translucent fibrous layer to a tough leathery membrane, manifests itself as a trapezoidal “apron” covering the glistening fatty tissues of the anterior mesorectum. Anterior dissection in TME can be efficiently continued downwards “in front of” Denonvilliers’ fascia. When the prostate is reached, the natural surgical plane halts, and the dissection plane should be shifted to behind this fascia. In contrast, in female patients, Denonvilliers’ fascia was much less obvious as a distinct fibrous layer than in male patients. The most appropriate term for the structure in between the rectum and vagina may be rectovaginal septum, in which there is no natural surgical plane, rather than Denonvilliers’ fascia.


By laparoscopic approach, the nature of Denonvilliers’ fasciae in male and female patients can be better defined and facilitates more precise laparoscopic total mesorectal excision for rectal cancer.

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Jin-Tung Liang, Hong-Shiee Lai, and Kuo-Wei Cheng have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.

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Correspondence to Jin-Tung Liang.

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Liang, J., Lai, H. & Cheng, K. Laparoscopic dissection of Denonvilliers’ fascia and implications for total mesorectal excision for treatment of rectal cancer. Surg Endosc 25, 935–940 (2011).

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  • Colorectal
  • Denonvilliers’ Fascia
  • Total mesorectal excision
  • Rectal cancer