A Distal Resection Margin of ≤1 mm and Rectal Cancer Recurrence After Sphincter-Preserving Surgery: The Role of a Positive Distal Margin in Rectal Cancer Surgery

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There is little information about the prognostic value of a microscopically positive distal margin in patients who have rectal cancer.


We aimed to investigate the influence of a distal margin of ≤1 mm on oncologic outcomes after sphincter-preserving resection for rectal cancer.


This is a retrospective cohort study.


The study was conducted at 2 hospitals.


A total of 6574 patients underwent anterior resection for rectal cancer from January 1999 to December 2014; 97 (1.5%) patients with a distal margin of ≤1 mm were included in this study. For comparative analyses, patients were matched with 194 patients with a negative distal margin (>1 mm) according to sex, age, BMI, ASA score, neoadjuvant treatment, tumor location, and stage.


The oncologic outcomes of the 2 groups were compared.


Perineural and lymphovascular invasion rates were significantly higher in patients with a positive distal margin (54.6% vs 28.9%; 67.0% vs 42.8%; both p < 0.001) compared with to patients with negative distal margin. Comparison between microscopically positive and negative distal margin showed worse oncologic outcomes in patients with a microscopically positive distal margin, including 5-year local recurrence rate (24.1% vs 12.0%, p = 0.005); 5-year distant recurrence rate (35.5% vs 20.2%, p = 0.011); 5-year disease-free survival (45.5% vs 69.5%, p < 0.001); and 5-year OS (69.2% vs 79.7%, p = 0.004). Among the 97 patients with a microscopically positive distal margin, the 5-year disease-free survival rate was higher in patients who received adjuvant therapy (52.0% vs 30.7%, p = 0.089).


This is a retrospective study; bias may exist.


A distal margin of 1 mm is associated with worse oncologic results. Our data indicate the importance of achieving a clear distal margin in the surgical treatment of rectal cancer. Adjuvant therapy should be used in these patients to reduce recurrence. See Video Abstract at http://links.lww.com/DCR/A408.

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