Purpose: Trials comparing handsewn with stapled anastomoses in colon and rectal surgery have not found statistical differences. Despite this, authors have differed in their conclusions as to which technique is superior. To help determine whether differences in patient outcomes are present, a meta-analysis of all trials was performed.
Method: A meta-analysis of all randomized, controlled trials assessing handsewn and stapled colon and rectal anastomoses was done using a fixed-effects model. Outcome variables were mortality, technical problems, leak rates, wound infections, strictures, and cancer recurrence. Outcomes were assessed for all anastomoses involving the colon and for the subset of colorectal anastomoses.
Results: Thirteen distinct trials met the inclusion criteria. Intraoperative technical problems were more likely to occur with stapled than with handsewn anastomoses for all anastomoses (P < 0.0001) and for colorectal anastomoses (P < 0.001). Strictures were also more common following stapled anastomoses (P = 0.015 for all anastomoses; P = 0.028 for colorectal anastomoses). All other outcome measures, including mortality, clinical and radiologic leak rates, and local cancer recurrence rates showed no difference between groups.
Conclusion: Although intraoperative technical problems and postoperative strictures were more common with stapled anastomoses, other outcome measures showed no difference between groups. Thus, both techniques are effective, and the choice may be based on personal preference.