Colorectal anastomotic leakage (CAL) remains a major complication after colorectal surgery. Despite all efforts during the last decades, the incidence of CAL has not decreased. In this review, we summarize the available strategies regarding prevention, prediction and intervention of CAL and categorize them into three categories: communication, infection and healing disturbances. These three major factors actively interact during the onset of CAL. We aim to provide an integrated approach to CAL based on its etiology. The intraoperative air leak test, intraoperative endoscopy, radiological examinations and stoma construction mainly aim to detect and to prevent communication between the intra- and extra-luminal content. Other strategies including postoperative drainage, antibiotics, and infectious-parameter evaluation are intended to detect and prevent anastomotic or peritoneal infection. Most currently available interventions for CAL focus on the control of communication and infection, while strategies targeting the healing disturbances such as lifestyle changes, oxygen therapy and evaluation of metabolic biomarkers still lack wide clinical application. This simplified categorization may contribute to an integrated understanding of CAL. We strongly believe that this integrated approach should be taken into consideration during clinical practice. An integrated approach to CAL could contribute to a better understanding of the etiology of CAL and eventually better patient outcome.
Keywords: Colorectal anastomotic leakage; Integrated approach; Intervention; Prediction; Prevention.