Integration of open and laparoscopic approaches for rectal cancer resection: oncologic and short-term outcomes

Deborah S Keller, Ki-Jae Park, Knut-Magne Augestad, Conor P Delaney
Surgical Endoscopy 2014, 28 (7): 2129-36

BACKGROUND: Laparoscopy is increasingly used for rectal cancer surgery. Laparoscopic surgery is not attempted for some suitable patients because of concerns for conversion or technical difficulty. This study aimed to evaluate oncologic and short-term outcomes for patients undergoing curative resection for rectal cancer via laparoscopic and open approaches.

METHODS: A prospective database was reviewed to identify rectal cancer resections from 2005 to 2011. Patients who had primary rectal cancer within 15 cm of the anal verge were included in the study. Those with recurrent or metastatic disease were excluded. Patients were assigned to laparoscopic or open approaches preoperatively based on clinical criteria and imaging. All patients underwent a standard total mesorectal excision and followed a standardized enhanced recovery pathway. The oncologic and clinical outcomes were evaluated by approach.

RESULTS: The analysis included 81 patients. The preoperative assignments consisted of 62 laparoscopic (77%) and 19 open (23%) procedures. Nine laparoscopic procedures (14.5%) were converted to open procedures. After a median follow-up period of 25 months, all oncologic outcomes were comparable. Three patients (two laparoscopic, one open) had a positive circumferential margin (≤1 mm). The laparoscopic and open groups were similar in terms of their 3-year disease-free periods (93.6 vs. 88.2%; P = 0.450) and overall survival periods (93.5 vs. 90.9%; P = 0.766). The local recurrence rate was 2.5%.

CONCLUSIONS: Laparoscopic resection for rectal cancer can be attempted for most patients. Conversion to open procedure does not compromise clinical or oncologic outcomes. In practice, combining laparoscopic and open surgery optimizes resource use and results in at least equivalent outcomes.

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