Objective: To analyze total mesorectal excision (TME) for rectal cancer by the laparoscopic approach during a prospective nonrandomized trial.
Summary background data: Improved local control and survival rates in the treatment of rectal cancer have been reported after TME.
Methods: The authors conducted a prospective consecutive series of 100 laparoscopic TMEs for low and mid-rectal tumors. All patients had a sphincter-saving procedure. Case selection, surgical technique, and clinical and oncologic results were reviewed.
Results: The distal limit of rectal neoplasm was on average 6.1 (range 3-12) cm from the anal verge. The mean operative time was 250 (range 110-540) minutes. The conversion rate was 12%. Excluding the patient who stayed 104 days after a severe fistula and reoperation, the mean postoperative stay was 12.05 (range 5-53) days. The 30-day mortality was 2% and the overall postoperative morbidity was 36%, including 17 anastomotic leaks. Of 87 malignant cases, 70 (80.4%) had a minimum follow-up of 12 months, with a median follow-up of 45.7 (range 12-72) months. During this period 18.5% (13/70) died of cancer and 8.5% (6/70) are alive with metastatic disease. The port-site metastasis rate was 1.4% (1/70): a rectal cancer stage IV presented with a parietal recurrence at 17 months after surgery. The locoregional pelvic recurrence rate was 4.2% (3/70): three rectal cancers stage III at 19, 13, and 7 postoperative months.
Conclusions: Laparoscopic TME is a feasible but technically demanding procedure (12% conversion rate). This series confirms the safety of the procedure, while oncologic results are at present comparable to the open published series with the limitation of a short follow-up period. Further studies and possibly randomized series will be necessary to evaluate long-term clinical outcome in cancer patients.