Background: Accurate presurgical assessment is important to anticipate postoperative complications, especially in the growing proportion of elderly cancer patients. We designed a study to define which comorbid conditions at the time of diagnosis predict complications after surgery for colorectal cancer.
Patients: A random sample of 431 patients recorded in the population-based Eindhoven Cancer Registry who underwent resection for stage I-III colorectal cancer, newly diagnosed between 1995 and 1999 were entered into this study.
Methods: The influence of specific comorbid conditions on the incidence and type of complications after surgery for colorectal cancer was analyzed.
Results: Overall, patients with comorbidity did not develop more surgical complications. However, patients with a tumor located in the colon who suffered from concomitant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) more often developed pneumonia (18% versus 2%; P = 0.0002) and hemorrhage (9% versus 1%; P = 0.02). Patients with colon cancer who suffered from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) at the time of cancer diagnosis more often had surgical complications (67% versus 30%; P = 0.04), especially more minor infections (44% versus 11%; P = 0.002) and major infections (56% versus 10%; P < 0.0001), pneumonia (22% versus 2%; P = 0.01), and thromboembolic complications (11% versus 3%; P = 0.02). Patients with a tumor located in the rectum who suffered from COPD more frequently had any surgical complication (73% versus 46%; P = 0.04), and the presence of DVT at the time of cancer diagnosis was predictive of thromboembolic complications (17% versus 4%; P = 0.045). The presence of DVT remained significant after adjustment for relevant patient and tumor characteristics (odds ratio 9.0, 95% confidence interval 1.1-27.9).
Conclusions: Among patients undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer, development of complications was especially predicted by presence of COPD and DVT. In patients with the latter comorbidity, regulation of the pre- and postsurgical hemostatic balance needs full attention.