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A comparison of laparascopic-assisted radical vaginal hysterectomy and radical abdominal hysterectomy in the treatment of cervical cancer.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to compare peri-operative morbidity and recurrence-free survival of early-stage cervical cancer patients treated by laparoscopic-assisted radical vaginal hysterectomy (LARVH) with time-matched radical abdominal hysterectomy (RAH) controls at our center.

METHODS: Since July 1984, all patients with FIGO stage IA/IB cervical cancer undergoing radical surgery by members of our division have been entered into a prospective database. Since November 1996, one surgeon at our center has performed LARVH on all surgically appropriate patients. Non-parametric tests were used. Differences between medians were compared using Wilcoxon Rank Sum test. Statistical analysis used the Kaplan-Meier method to calculate disease-free survival. Differences between survival curves were compared with the log rank test. Statistical significance was defined as P < 0.05.

RESULTS: Between November 1996 and December 2003, 71 and 205 patients have undergone LARVH and RAH, respectively, for FIGO stage IA/IB carcinoma of the cervix. Both groups were similar with respect to age and Quetelet index. There were no differences in tumor size, histology, grade, depth of invasion, lymph node metastases, or surgical margins. All laparoscopic procedures were completed successfully with no conversions to laparotomy. Intra-operative morbidity characteristics analyzed (LARVH vs. RAH) were blood loss 300 ml vs. 500 ml (P < 0.001), operative time 3.5 h vs. 2.5 h (P < 0.001), and intra-operative complications 13% vs. 4% (P < 0.03). Intra-operative complications in the LARVH group included: cystotomy (7), ureteric injury (1), and bowel injury (1). There was no difference in transfusion rates. There was no difference between post-operative infectious and non-infectious complications (LARVH vs. RAH), 9% vs. 5% and 5% vs. 2%, respectively. The median time to normal urine residual was 10 days vs. 5 days (P < 0.001), and the median length of hospital stay was 1 day vs. 5 days (P < 0.001). Twenty-two percent of patients received post-operative radiotherapy for high-risk features in both groups. After a median follow-up of 17 and 21 months, there have been 4 recurrences in the LARVH group and 13 in the RAH (P = NS). The overall 2-year recurrence-free survival was 94% and 94% in the LARVH and RAH groups, respectively (P = NS).

CONCLUSION: Our data demonstrate that early cervical cancer can be treated successfully with LARVH with similar efficacy and recurrence rates to RAH. The major benefits are less intra-operative blood loss and shorter hospital stay. It is a safe procedure with low overall morbidity and complication rates. However, at present, LARVH is associated with an increase in intra-operative complications, and patients may have an increased time to return to normal bladder function.

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