Objective: The association between hospital volumen and outcome of major cancer surgery is being debated at present. We analysed the outcome of rectal cancer surgery in Denmark during the period 1994-99.
Methods: All patients with a first-time rectal cancer were registered in a national database during the 5-year period. In this observational cohort study, the influence of hospital case volume on resectional procedure, complications, 30-day mortality and 5-year mortality was analysed.
Results: The register comprised 5021 patients. Surgery was performed in 27 hospitals with <15 operations per year, 15 hospitals with 15-30 operations per year and 11 hospitals with >30 operations per year. In a multivariate model, the risk of permanent colostomy was significantly increased in the group of low-volume hospitals. On the contrary, volume did not influence the risk of anastomotic leakage, 30-day mortality and 5-year mortality. However, a large variation in 5-year mortality was observed particularly within the low-volume group of hospitals.
Conclusions: In this study, only risk of having a permanent colostomy during surgery for rectal cancer was significantly related to hospital case volume. When individual hospitals were analysed, a large variation in 5-year mortality was observed within the low-volume group of hospitals.