Blood Perfusion Assessment by Indocyanine Green Fluorescence Imaging for Minimally Invasive Rectal Cancer Surgery (EssentiAL trial): A Randomized Clinical Trial

Ann Surg. 2023 Oct 1;278(4):e688-e694. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000005907. Epub 2023 May 23.


Objective: The aim of the present randomized controlled trial was to evaluate the superiority of indocyanine green fluorescence imaging (ICG-FI) in reducing the rate of anastomotic leakage in minimally invasive rectal cancer surgery.

Background: The role of ICG-FI in anastomotic leakage in minimally invasive rectal cancer surgery is controversial according to the published literature.

Methods: This randomized, open-label, phase 3, trial was performed at 41 hospitals in Japan. Patients with clinically stage 0-III rectal carcinoma less than 12 cm from the anal verge, scheduled for minimally invasive sphincter-preserving surgery were preoperatively randomly assigned to receive a blood flow evaluation by ICG-FI (ICG+ group) or no blood flow evaluation by ICG-FI (ICG- group). The primary endpoint was the anastomotic leakage rate (grade A+B+C, expected reduction rate of 6%) analyzed in the modified intention-to-treat population.

Results: Between December 2018 and February 2021, a total of 850 patients were enrolled and randomized. After the exclusion of 11 patients, 839 were subject to the modified intention-to-treat population (422 in the ICG+ group and 417 in the ICG- group). The rate of anastomotic leakage (grade A+B+C) was significantly lower in the ICG+ group (7.6%) than in the ICG- group (11.8%) (relative risk, 0.645; 95% confidence interval 0.422-0.987; P =0.041). The rate of anastomotic leakage (grade B+C) was 4.7% in the ICG+ group and 8.2% in the ICG- group ( P =0.044), and the respective reoperation rates were 0.5% and 2.4% ( P =0.021).

Conclusions: Although the actual reduction rate of anastomotic leakage in the ICG+ group was lower than the expected reduction rate and ICG-FI was not superior to white light, ICG-FI significantly reduced the anastomotic leakage rate by 4.2%.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anastomosis, Surgical / methods
  • Anastomotic Leak / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Indocyanine Green*
  • Optical Imaging / methods
  • Perfusion
  • Rectal Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Rectal Neoplasms* / surgery


  • Indocyanine Green