The circular stapling device as a risk factor for anastomotic leakage

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To investigate the relation between the type of circular stapler and anastomotic leak in rectal cancer surgery.


During the past decades results from rectal cancer surgery have improved considerably regarding risk of local recurrence and survival. Two main paradigm changes are considered to be the cause for this: the introduction of total mesorectal excision (TME) and the increasing use of radiotherapy. However, rectal cancer surgery is associated with an unacceptably high frequency of complications of which anastomotic leak is one of the most severe ones. The hypothesis was raised that the choice of stapler influenced the leakage rates.


A questionnaire was sent to all departments of surgery (n = 66) performing rectal cancer surgery in Sweden to determine the choice of circular stapler when performing anterior resection for rectal cancer. These data were linked to the Swedish Rectal Cancer Registry for the period 1995–99.


A total of 3316 patients had an anterior resection. The choice of circular stapling device was determined in 70% of the cases. When stapler A was used, the leakage rate was 11% whereas it was 7% when stapler B was used (P = 0.0039). In the cases where it was impossible to determine which stapler had been used the leakage rate was 8%.


Quality control is an important part of medicine and the present study suggests that it also must include surgical instruments. A prospective randomised study is needed to confirm the results.

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