Waldeyer's fascia

Waldeyer's fascia
Latin fascia presacralis
Anatomical terminology

The Waldeyer's fascia is synonymous with the presacral fascia and is more commonly described in surgery textbooks, rather than in anatomy textbooks. Although Waldeyer himself did not actually describe this exact anatomy, it is credited to him as he was the first to describe the anatomy of pelvic fascia in detail.[1][2]

The presacral fascia lines the anterior aspect of the sacrum, enclosing the sacral vessels and nerves. It continues anteriorly as the pelvic parietal fascia, covering the entire pelvic cavity.[3] It has been erroneously described as the posterior aspect of the mesorectal fascia.[4] These two fascias are in fact, separate anatomical entities. During rectal surgery and mesorectum excision, dissection along the avascular aveolar plane between these two fascias, facilitates a straightforward dissection and preserves the sacral vessels and hypogastric nerves.

The presacral fascia is limited postero-inferiorly, as it fuses with the mesorectal fascia, lying above the levator ani muscle, at the level of the anorectal junction.[5] The colloquial term, among colo-rectal surgeons, for this inter-fascial plane, is known as the "holy plane" of dissection first coined by Heald RJ.[6]

The mesorectal fascia, also known as the fascia propria or the pelvic visceral fascia, has been originally described as the fascia recti in Waldeyer's publication, Das Becken. Fascia recti is also a term commonly used among French surgeons to describe the mesorectal fascia.[7] Confusingly, fascia recti is described in some anatomy books, referring to the fascia of the rectus abdominis muscle.

Identification and preservation of the Waldeyer’s fascia is of fundamental importance in preventing complications and reducing local recurrences of rectal cancer.[8] Hence attention to this anatomy is essential in contemporary rectal surgery.


  1. ^ W. Waldeyer. Das Becken, Friedrich Cohen, Bonn 1899
  2. ^ Crapp AR, Cuthbertson AM. William Waldeyer and the rectosacral fascia. Surg Gynecol Obstet 1974;138:252-6
  3. ^ Longo WE, Northover J. Reoperative colon and rectal surgery. Martin Dunitz, Taylor and Francis Group 2003:36-37. ISBN 1-84184-183-8
  4. ^ Santoro GA, Di Falco G. Benign Anorectal Diseases. Springer-Verlag Italia 2006:71-72. ISBN 88-470-0336-9
  5. ^ Armengol J et al. Review of the anatomic concepts in relation to the retrorectal space and endopelvic fascia: Waldeyer's fascia and the rectosacral fascia. Colorectal Dis. 2008;10(3):298-302
  6. ^ Heald RJ. The ‘Holy Plane’ of rectal surgery. J R Soc Med 1988;81:503–80
  7. ^ L. de Calan et al. Cancer du rectum : anatomie chirurgicale, preparation a l'intervention, installation du patient. EMC - Chirurgie 2004;1(3):275-292
  8. ^ MacFarlane JK, Ryall RD, Heald RJ: Mesorectal excision for rectal cancer. Lancet 1993;341: 457–460
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