A Comparison of Open and Robotic Total Mesorectal Excision for Rectal Adenocarcinoma

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PURPOSE:This retrospective study was designed to compare open with robot-assisted total mesorectal excision for rectal adenocarcinoma.METHODS:With use of predefined exclusion criteria, all consecutive laparoscopic-assisted (51 patients) and robot-assisted (36 patients) rectal resections for adenocarcinoma from August 2005 to November 2009 at a single institution were considered. Hand-assisted laparoscopy was used for splenic flexure mobilization in all cases. Patients were assigned into robotic and open groups on the basis of the technique used for total mesorectal excision. All 36 robot-assisted resections had the total mesorectal excision performed with robotic assistance and were included in the robotic group. Forty-six of the 51 patients who received a laparoscopic-assisted procedure had the total mesorectal excision performed through the hand port using open surgical technique and were included in the open group. Both groups were compared with respect to patient demographics, perioperative outcomes, and pathology.RESULTS:The robotic and open groups were comparable in age, sex, body mass index, history of prior abdominal surgery, ASA class, number of patients receiving neoadjuvant chemoradiation, and tumor stage. There were more abdominoperineal resections (P = .019) and more low and mid rectal tumors (P = .007) in the robotic group. Total procedure time was longer in the robotic group (P = .003), but blood loss was less (P = .036). Lymph node yield, intraoperative and postoperative complications, and length of stay were all comparable. There were 3 positive circumferential margins in the open group vs none in the robotic group, but this did not reach statistical significance.CONCLUSIONS:Robotic total mesorectal excision is feasible and safe, and is comparable to open total mesorectal excision in terms of perioperative and pathological outcomes. The longer operative time associated with robotic total mesorectal excision could decrease as experience with this relatively new technique increases. Large randomized trials are necessary to validate the potential benefits of less blood loss and lower margin positivity rates observed in this study.

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