Background: There are few reports on laparoscopic rectum resection demonstrating its feasibility and efficacy in patients with rectal cancer. Most patient series are small, and results must be considered preliminary and medium-term. Our large prospective conducted study aimed to assess the effectiveness of a totally laparoscopic resection for rectum carcinoma with emphasis on perioperative and long-term oncological outcomes.
Methods: Between November 1992 and July 2003, 194 unselected patients were resected laparoscopically for rectal carcinoma. Patients with locally advanced rectum carcinoma (uT3/uT4) and no evidence of distant metastases were candidates for neoadjuvant chemoradiation. Adjuvant treatment was administered to patients with UICC stage II/III disease. All patients were followed up prospectively to evaluate complications and late outcomes. Survival probability analysis was performed using the Kaplan-Meier method. Study selection was made by Medline search using the following key words: rectal cancer, rectal neoplasms, laparoscopy, and resection. Single case reports and abstracts were excluded. When surgical series were reported more than once, only the most recent reports were considered and listed.
Results: The most common procedures were low anterior resection with total mesorectum excision in 65.5% of patients and high anterior resection in 25.3%. Average operative time was 174 min. Average number of lymph nodes removed was 25.4 and length of specimen resected was 27.6 cm. Resection was curative in 145 patients and palliative in 49 cases. UICC tumor stages were as follows: stage I: 25.2%, stage II: 27.3%, stage III: 30.4%, and stage IV: 17%. Intraoperative complications were <1% for lesions of the ureter, urinary bladder, and deferent duct. Conversion to conventional surgery was necessary in two cases (1%). The most common postoperative complication was anastomotic leakage in 13.5% of patients. There was no postoperative mortality. Follow-up evaluation ranged from 1 to 128 months with a mean of 46.1 months. The most common late complication was incisional hernia in 3.6% of patients. Port-site metastases occurred in one patient (0.5%). Tumor recurrence developed in 23 of the 145 curative resected patients (11.7% distant metastases and 4.1% local recurrence). Overall local recurrence rate was 6.7% (4.1% after curative resection and 14.3% after palliative resection). Overall survival rate was 90.6% at 1 year, 74.5% at 3 years, and 66.3% at 5 years. Overall 5-year survival rate was 76.9% after curative resection and 31.8% after palliative resection. Cancer-related survival rate was 94% at 1 year, 82.4% at 3 years, and 78.9% at 5 years. At 5 years it was 87.7% after curative resection and 48.5% after palliative resection. At 5 years, the survival rate was 100% for stage I, 94.4% for stage II, 66.6% for stage III, and 44.6% for stage IV.
Conclusions: Our results and the literature review clearly demonstrate that laparoscopic resection for rectal cancer is not associated with higher morbidity and mortality. Established oncological and surgical principles are respected and long-term outcomes are at least as good as those after open surgery.