Background: The transanal minilaparoscopy-assisted natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) approach holds significant promise as a safe and less morbid alternative to conventional low anterior rectal resection. Previous reports have shown satisfactory short-term oncologic results. We evaluated the safety and short-term outcomes in rectal cancer subjects who underwent transanal minilaparoscopy-assisted natural orifice surgery total mesorectal excision (TME) rectal resection.
Methods: Twenty selected patients with rectal cancer were enrolled onto a prospective study of minilaparoscopy-assisted natural orifice surgery TME rectal resection. The study endpoints were safety of access (intra- or postoperative morbidity) and adequacy of oncological resection criteria; intact TME; distal and circumferential margins; and number of lymph nodes retrieved.
Results: All procedures were successfully completed with the transanal NOTES and minilaparoscopy technique. The mean age was 65 ± 10 years; 55% of patients were male; the mean body mass index was 25.3 ± 3.8 kg/m(2). Thirty-five percent of tumors were in the distal rectum, 50% in midrectum, and 15% in proximal rectum. Coloanal anastomoses were hand sewn in 65% and stapled in 35%. Mean operative time was 235 ± 56 min. There were no procedure-related complications. Pathologic analysis demonstrated negative distal and circumferential margins in all patients. An average of 15.9 ± 4.3 lymph nodes were retrieved. The mesorectal fascia was intact in all the specimens.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that transanal NOTES with minilaparoscopic assistance in the hands of a specialized team is safe; meets the oncologic requirements for high-quality rectal cancer surgery; and may offer advantages over pure laparoscopic approaches for visualizing and dissecting out the distal mesorectum. Minilaparoscopic assistance allows one to compensate for the limitations of current NOTES instrumentation to ensure the safety and adequacy of oncologic resection in these difficult cases. Careful patient selection, a specialized team, and long-term outcome evaluation are critical before this procedure can be considered for routine clinical use.