Toward lowering morbidity, mortality, and stoma formation in emergency colorectal surgery: the role of specialization

Luigi Zorcolo, Luca Covotta, Nicola Carlomagno, David C C Bartolo
Diseases of the Colon and Rectum 2003, 46 (11): 1461-7; discussion 1467-8

INTRODUCTION: Surgical management of left-sided large bowel emergencies has been evolving toward single-staged procedures. Selection for single or staged resection remains the most controversial issue.

METHODS: The results from a series of 336 emergency colorectal procedures performed between January 1990 and December 2000 for cancer and diverticular disease by two different surgical units in one hospital are reported: one with a specific interest in colorectal surgery, and one specialized in upper gastrointestinal surgery.

RESULTS: A primary anastomosis was performed in 142 (64.3 percent) patients by colorectal surgeons and in 42 (36.5 percent) by noncolorectal surgeons (P < 0.0001). The overall morbidity and mortality rates were lower for colon and rectal surgeons (14.5 vs. 24.3 percent and 10.4 vs. 17.4 percent, respectively). Trainees were more likely to perform anastomoses when assisted by colorectal consultants (72.1 percent of cases) than when a noncolorectal consultant was present (47.5 percent of cases; P < 0.05). The 30-day mortality for patients with primary anastomosis was 6 percent, and anastomotic dehiscence occurred in nine (4.9 percent) patients. The mortality for patients undergoing staged resections (21.1 percent) was significantly higher than those who had primary resections performed (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Primary anastomosis for left-sided colorectal diseases can be performed with low morbidity and mortality in selected patients. Specialization increased anastomotic rates and reduced morbidity. This study suggests that colon and rectal surgeons should manage colorectal emergencies, and trainees should not be left unsupervised.

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