The effect of hospital and surgeon volume on outcomes for rectal cancer surgery

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Nov;6(11):1185-93. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2008.05.023. Epub 2008 Oct 1.


Despite many studies of rectal cancer outcomes, no clear relationship between hospital or surgeon volume and patient outcomes has emerged for rectal cancer. We aimed to characterize the effect of hospital and surgical volume on surgery type and surgical outcomes in rectal cancer through a systematic review of the literature. We conducted a systematic review of studies evaluating the association between hospital or surgeon volume and rectal cancer outcomes. We searched PubMed for relevant articles and reviewed 23 articles. We describe each study and report outcomes in terms of the effect of hospital or surgeon volume on the type of surgery performed, surgical complications, postoperative mortality, survival, and recurrence. Hospitals and surgeons with higher caseloads appear to perform more sphincter-preserving surgeries and have lower postoperative mortality rates. Hospital and surgeon volume appear to have no effect or a small beneficial effect on the rate of leaks, complication rates, local recurrence, overall survival, and cancer-specific survival. For rectal cancer, the effects of hospital volume may be stronger for more short-term outcomes. Beyond the immediate recovery period, the effect of hospital and surgeon volume may be minimal. As more technically challenging surgeries, such as total mesorectal resection, become more widespread it will be important to evaluate the impact of hospital and surgeon volume on outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Facility Size / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Rectal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome