Background: Total mesorectal excision (TME) and use of adjuvant radiotherapy are major advances in the treatment of rectal cancer that have emerged in the past 20 years. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of an initiative to teach the TME technique on outcomes at 5 years after surgery.
Methods: TME-based surgery was introduced in Stockholm in 1994. The study population comprised all 447 patients who underwent abdominal operations for rectal cancer in Stockholm County during 1995 and 1996. Outcomes were compared with those in the Stockholm I (790 patients) and Stockholm II (542 patients) radiotherapy trials.
Results: The permanent stoma rate was reduced from 60.3 and 55.3 per cent in the Stockholm I and II trials respectively to 26.5 per cent in the TME project (P < 0.001). Five-year local recurrence rates decreased from 21.9 and 19.1 per cent to 8.2 per cent respectively (P < 0.001). Five-year cancer-specific survival rates increased from 66.0 and 65.7 per cent in the Stockholm trials to 77.3 per cent in the TME project (hazard ratio 0.62 (95 per cent confidence interval 0.49 to 0.80); P < 0.001).
Conclusion: A surgical teaching programme had a major impact on rectal cancer outcome.