Postoperative Complications and Long-Term Quality of Life After Multimodality Treatment for Esophageal Cancer: An Analysis of the Prospective Observational Cohort Study of Esophageal-Gastric Cancer Patients (POCOP)

Ann Surg Oncol. 2021 Nov;28(12):7259-7276. doi: 10.1245/s10434-021-10144-5. Epub 2021 May 25.


Background: Esophagectomy has major effects on health-related quality of life (HR-QoL). Postoperative complications might contribute to a decreased HR-QOL. This population-based study aimed to investigate the difference in HR-QoL between patients with and without complications after esophagectomy for cancer.

Methods: A prospective comparative cohort study was performed with data from the Netherlands Cancer Registry (NCR) and Prospective Observational Cohort Study of Esophageal-Gastric Cancer Patients (POCOP). All patients with esophageal and gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer after esophagectomy in the period 2015-2018 were enrolled. The study investigated HR-QoL at baseline, then 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 months postoperatively, comparing patients with and without complications as well as with and without anastomotic leakage.

Results: The 486 enrolled patients comprised 270 patients with complications and 216 patients without complications. Significantly more patients with complications had comorbidities (69.6% vs 57.3%; p = 0.001). No significant difference in HR-QoL was found over time between the patients with and without complications. In both groups, a significant decline in short-term HR-QoL was found in various HR-QoL domains, which were restored to the baseline level during the 12-month follow-up period. No significant difference was found in HR-QoL between the patients with and without anastomotic leakage. The patients with grades 2 and 3 anastomotic leakage reported significantly more "choking when swallowing" at 6 months (ß = 14.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], - 24.833 to - 4.202; p = 0.049), 9 months (ß = 22.4, 95% CI, - 34.259 to - 10.591; p = 0.007), and 24 months (ß = 24.6; 95% CI, - 39.494 to - 9.727; p = 0.007) than the patients with grade 1 or no anastomotic leakage.

Conclusion: In general, postoperative complications were not associated with decreased short- or long-term HR-QoL for patients after esophagectomy for esophageal or GEJ cancer. The temporary decrease in HR-QoL likely is related to the nature of esophagectomy and reconstruction itself.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Anastomotic Leak / etiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Esophageal Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Esophagectomy / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / surgery