Background: Controversy continues to surround laparoscopic rectal resection for malignancy. A longer follow-up period is required to evaluate the long-term efficacy of the procedure and its impact on survival. Furthermore, no data from ongoing randomized controlled trials are yet available. The aims of this study were to compare long-term outcomes for unselected patients undergoing either laparoscopic or open rectal resection for cancer.
Methods: A series of 124 unselected consecutive patients with rectal cancer, who underwent surgery by the same surgical team, have been included in this study. Patients with T1N0 tumors underwent local excision, and emergency cases were excluded from the study. Written consent was submitted by each patient, and inclusion in either group (laparoscopic or open) was left to the patient's choice. The laparoscopic approach was chosen by 81 patients, and 43 patients chose open surgery. All the patients underwent preoperative radiotherapy (5,040 cGy), performed in selected cases with chemotherapy (for patients younger than 70 years). The following parameters were compared between the two groups: length of the surgical specimen, clearance of the margins of the specimen, number of lymph nodes identified, local recurrence rate, incidence of distant metastases, and survival probability analysis. The mean follow-up period for both groups was 43.8 months (range, l-9 years).
Results: We performed 60 laparoscopic and 27 open anterior resections, as well as 21 laparoscopic and 16 open abdomino perineal resections, respectively. No mortality occurred in either group. The mean length of the resected specimens was 24.3 cm in the laparoscopic group and 23.8 cm in the open group ( p = 0.47). The mean tumor-free margin was 3.0 cm in the laparoscopic group and 2.8 cm in the open group ( p = 0.57), and the mean number of lymph nodes identified was 10.3 in the laparoscopic group and 9.8 in the open group ( p = 0.63). Of the 124 patients, 86 (52 laparoscopic and 34 open) were included in out study. We excluded patients who underwent a palliative resection (6 laparoscopic and 6 open patients) or conversion to open surgery ( n = 10) and patients who had undergone surgery in the past year ( n = 16). One laparoscopic patient was lost to follow-up evaluation, whereas three laparoscopic patients and one open patient died of causes not related to cancer. No wound recurrence was observed. The local recurrence rate after laparoscopic resection was 20.8%, as compared with 16.6% after open resection ( p = 0.687). Distant metastases occurred in 18.2% of the patients in the laparoscopic group, as compared with 21.2% in the open group ( p = 0.528). Cumulative survival probability was 0.709 after laparoscopic resection after LR and 0.606 after open resection ( p = 0.162), whereas for Dukes' stages A, B, and C in the laparoscopic group versus the open group, it was 0.875 vs 0.889 ( p = 0.392), 0.722 vs 0.584 ( p = 0.199), and 0.500 vs 0.417 ( p = 0.320), respectively. At this writing 20 laparoscopic patients (62.5%) and 20 open patients (60.6%) are disease free ( p = 0.623).
Conclusions: Oncologic surgical principles were respected. Long-term outcome after laparoscopic resection of rectal cancer was comparable with that after conventional resection. We should wait to draw conclusive scientific statements until the completion of ongoing international randomized controlled trials.