Surgeon-Related Factors and Outcome in Rectal Cancer

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Abstract

Objective

To determine whether surgical subspecialty training in colorectal surgery or frequency of rectal cancer resection by the surgeon are independent prognostic factors for local recurrence (LR) and survival.

Summary Background Data

Variation in patient outcome in rectal cancer has been shown among centers and among individual surgeons. However, the prognostic importance of surgeon-related factors is largely unknown.

Methods

All patients undergoing potentially curative low anterior resection or abdominoperineal resection for primary adenocarcinoma of the rectum between 1983 and 1990 at the five Edmonton general hospitals were reviewed in a historic-prospective study design. Preoperative, intraoperative, pathologic, adjuvant therapy, and outcome variables were obtained. Outcomes of interest included LR and disease-specific survival (DSS). To determine survival rates and to control both confounding and interaction, multivariate analysis was performed using Cox proportional hazards regression.

Results

The study included 683 patients involving 52 surgeons, with >5-year follow-up obtained on 663 (97%) patients. There were five colorectal-trained surgeons who performed 109 (16%) of the operations. Independent of surgeon training, 323 operations (47%) were done by surgeons performing < 21 rectal cancer resections over the study period. Multivariate analysis showed that the risk of LR was increased in patients of both noncolorectal trained surgeons (hazard ratio (HR) = 2.5, p = 0.001) and those of surgeons performing < 21 resections (HR = 1.8, p < 0.001). Stage (p < 0.001), use of adjuvant therapy (p = 0.002), rectal perforation or tumor spill (p < 0.001), and vascular/neural invasion (p = 0.002) also were significant prognostic factors for LR. Similarly, decreased disease-specific survival was found to be independently associated with noncolorectal-trained surgeons (HR = 1.5, p = 0.03) and surgeons performing <21 resections (HR = 1.4, p = 0.005). Stage (p < 0.001), grade (p = 0.02), age (p = 0.02), rectal perforation or tumor spill (p < 0.001), and vascular or neural invasion (p < 0.001) were other significant prognostic factors for DSS.

Conclusion

Outcome is improved with both colorectal surgical subspecialty training and a higher frequency of rectal cancer surgery. Therefore, the surgical treatment of rectal cancer patients should rely exclusively on surgeons with such training or surgeons with more experience.

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