Background: Malignant bowel obstruction (MBO) is a feature of the clinical course of 10-28% of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and is associated with a poor prognosis. Recent advancements in palliative chemotherapy regimens have prolonged survival in patients with stage IV CRC. Few reports exist that describe outcomes in patients who have had surgery for MBO and subsequent chemotherapy as part of their treatment. The objective of this study was to review surgical outcomes in patients with MBO for CRC and to evaluate the extent to which surgery can serve as a bridge to palliative chemotherapy.
Methods: Patients who presented with MBO and had surgical treatment were identified from a prospectively kept database at a single tertiary care center between 09/99 and 08/04. Charts were retrospectively reviewed and clinical and outcomes data were abstracted.
Results: Forty-seven patients were identified who had surgery as part of the treatment for MBO from CRC. Operations included resections, bypasses and stoma creation. Overall, 80% of patients were able to tolerate solid food post-operatively and return home. The median survival for the entire cohort was 3.5 months. Seven patients died within 30 days of surgery. Of the remainder, 24 patients were palliated with surgery alone and 16 patients ultimately received palliative chemotherapy. Survival in the final cohort was significantly prolonged (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Surgery can adequately palliate a substantial proportion of patients with MBO from CRC with acceptable morbidity and mortality. In addition, in a subset of patients it can facilitate palliative chemotherapy that is associated with improved overall survival.