Pelvic Exenteration for Rectal Cancer: A Systematic Review

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Pelvic exenteration is a potentially curative treatment for locally advanced primary or recurrent rectal cancer.


This systematic review examines the current evidence regarding clinical and oncological outcomes in patients with locally advanced primary and recurrent rectal cancer who undergo pelvic exenteration.


A literature search of PubMed, Medline, and the Cochrane library was undertaken, and studies published in the English language from January 2000 to August 2012 were identified.


Prospective and retrospective studies that report outcomes of pelvic exenteration for primary advanced and locally recurrent rectal cancer with or without subgroup evaluation were included for examination.


Oncological outcomes included 5-year survival, median survival, and local recurrence rates. Clinical outcomes included complication rates and perioperative mortality rates.


A total of 23 studies with 1049 patients were reviewed. The complication rates ranged from 37% to 100% (median, 57%) and the perioperative mortality rate ranged from 0% to 25% (median, 2.2%). The rate of local recurrence ranged from 4.8% to 61% (median, 22%). The median survival for primary advanced rectal cancers was 14 to 93 months (median, 35.5 months) and 8 to 38 months (median, 24 months) for locally recurrent rectal cancer.


Our review was limited by the small sample sizes from single-institutional studies reporting outcomes over long periods of time with heterogeneity in both the disease and treatments reported.


Although the human costs and risks are significant, the potentially favorable survival outcomes make this acceptable in the absence of other effective treatment modalities that would otherwise result in debilitating symptoms that afflict patients who have advanced pelvic malignancy.

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