Outcome After Proctectomy for Rectal Cancer in Department of Veterans Affairs Hospitals: A Report From the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program

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To define risk factors that predict adverse outcomes after proctectomy for cancer in Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.

Summary Background Data

Accurate presurgical assessment of the risk of perioperative complications and death is important in planning surgical therapy.


The National VA Surgical Quality Improvement Program contains prospectively collected and extensively validated data on >287,000 patients. All patients undergoing proctectomy for rectal cancer from 1991 to 1995 who were registered in this data base were selected for study. Independent variables examined included 68 presurgical and 12 intraoperative clinical risk factors; dependent variables were 21 specific adverse outcomes. Stepwise logistic regression analysis was used to construct models predicting 30-day morbidity rates for each of the 10 most common complications and the 30-day mortality rate.


Five hundred ninety-one patients were identified; 467 (79%) underwent abdominoperineal resection and 124 (21%) were treated with sphincter-saving procedures. Thirty percent of patients had one or more complications after proctectomy. Prolonged ileus, urinary tract infection, pneumonia, and deep wound infection were the most frequently reported complications. The 30-day mortality rate was 3.2% (19 deaths). For most complications, 30-day mortality rates were significantly higher for patients with complications than for those without. Thirty-day mortality rates for several complications exceeded 50%: cardiac arrest requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation, deep venous thrombosis or thrombophlebitis, coma lasting >24 hours, acute renal failure, cerebrovascular accident, and pulmonary embolism. Four presurgical factors predicted a high risk of 30-day mortality in the logistic regression analysis: elevated blood urea nitrogen level, impaired sensorium, low serum albumin concentration, and partial thromboplastin time ≤25 seconds.


Mortality rates after proctectomy in VA hospitals are comparable to those reported in other large series. Most postsurgical complications are associated with an increased 30-day mortality rate. Elevated presurgical blood urea nitrogen level, impaired sensorium, low serum albumin concentration, and partial thromboplastin time ≤25 seconds predict a high risk of 30-day mortality.

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