Background: Recent data confirming the oncologic safety of laparoscopic colectomy for cancer as well as its potential benefits will likely motivate more surgeons to perform laparoscopic colorectal surgery.
Objectives: To assess factors related to the learning curve of laparoscopic colorectal surgery, such as the number of operations performed, the type of procedures, major complications, and oncologic resections.
Methods: We evaluated the data of our first 100 elective laparoscopic colorectal operations performed during a 2 year period and compared the first 50 cases with the following 50.
Results: The mean age of the study population was 66 years and 49% were males. Indications included cancer, polyps, diverticular disease, Crohn's disease, and others, in 50%, 23%, 13%, 7% and 7% respectively. Mean operative time was 170 minutes. One patient died (massive pulmonary embolism). Significant surgical complications occurred in 10 patients (10%). Hospital stay averaged 8 days. Comparison of the first 50 procedures with the next 50 revealed a significant decrease in major surgical complications (20% vs. 0%). Mean operative time decreased from 180 to 160 minutes and hospital stay from 8.6 to 7.2 days. There was no difference in conversion rate and mean number of harvested nodes in both groups. Residents performed 8% of the operations in the first 50 cases compared with 20% in the second 50 cases. Right colectomies had shorter operative times and fewer conversions.
Conclusions: There was a significant decrease in major complications after the first 50 laparoscopic colorectal procedures. Adequate oncologic resections may be achieved early in the learning curve. Right colectomies are less difficult to perform and are recommended as initial procedures.