Background: This study sought to synthesize survival outcomes from trials of laparoscopic and open colorectal cancer surgery, and to determine whether expert acceptance of this technology in the literature has parallel cumulative survival evidence.
Study design: A systematic review of randomized trials was conducted. The primary outcome was survival, and meta-analysis of time-to-event data was conducted. Expert opinion in the literature (published reviews, guidelines, and textbook chapters) on the acceptability of laparoscopic colorectal cancer was graded using a 7-point scale. Pooled survival data were correlated in time with accumulating expert opinion scores.
Results: A total of 5,800 citations were screened. Of these, 39 publications pertaining to 23 individual trials were retained. As well, 414 reviews were included (28 guidelines, 30 textbook chapters, 20 systematic reviews, 336 narrative reviews). In total, 5,782 patients were randomized to laparoscopic (n = 3,031) and open (n = 2,751) colorectal surgery. Survival data were presented in 16 publications. Laparoscopic surgery was not inferior to open surgery in terms of overall survival (HR = 0.94, 95% CI 0.80, 1.09). Expert opinion in the literature pertaining to the oncologic acceptability of laparoscopic surgery for colon cancer correlated most closely with the publication of large RCTs in 2002-2004. Although increasingly accepted since 2006, laparoscopic surgery for rectal cancer remained controversial.
Conclusions: Laparoscopic surgery for colon cancer is non-inferior to open surgery in terms of overall survival, and has been so since 2004. The majority expert opinion in the literature has considered these two techniques to be equivalent since 2002-2004. Laparoscopic surgery for rectal cancer has been increasingly accepted since 2006, but remains controversial. Knowledge translation efforts in this field appear to have paralleled the accumulation of clinical trial evidence.