Intraoperative use of ICG fluorescence imaging to reduce the risk of anastomotic leakage in colorectal surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Tech Coloproctol. 2018 Jan;22(1):15-23. doi: 10.1007/s10151-017-1731-8. Epub 2017 Dec 11.


Background: Indocyanine green (ICG) fluorescence imaging has been proven to be an effective tool to assess anastomotic perfusion. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate its efficacy in reducing the anastomotic leakage (AL) rate after colorectal surgery.

Methods: PubMed, Scopus, WOS, Google Scholar and Cochrane Library were searched up to January 2017 for studies comparing fluorescence imaging with standard care. register was searched for ongoing trials. The primary outcome measure was AL rate with at least 1 month of follow-up. ROBINS-I tool was used for quality assessment. A meta-analysis with random-effects model was performed to calculate odds ratios (ORs) from the original data.

Results: One thousand three hundred and two patients from 5 non-randomized studies were included. Fluorescence imaging significantly reduced the AL rate in patients undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer (OR 0.34; CI 0.16-0.74; p = 0.006). Low AL rates were shown in rectal cancer surgery (ICG 1.1% vs non-ICG 6.1%; p = 0.02). There was no significant decrease in the AL rate when colorectal procedures for benign and malignant disease were combined. To date, there are no published randomized control trials (RCTs) on this subject, though 3 ongoing RCTs were identified.

Conclusions: ICG fluorescence imaging seems to reduce AL rates following colorectal surgery for cancer. However, the inherent bias of the non-randomized studies included, and their differences in AL definition and diagnosis could have influenced results. Large well-designed RCTs are needed to provide evidence for its routine use in colorectal surgery.

Keywords: Anastomotic leak; Colorectal cancer; Colorectal surgery; Fluorescence imaging; Indocyanine green.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anastomosis, Surgical / adverse effects
  • Anastomotic Leak / prevention & control*
  • Colon / surgery*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Coloring Agents
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indocyanine Green
  • Intraoperative Care / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Rectum / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Coloring Agents
  • Indocyanine Green