Some studies advocate a laparoscopic extralevator abdominoperineal excision (l-ELAPE) approach for low rectal cancer. The da Vinci™ robot (r-ELAPE) technique has potential to overcome some limitations of l-ELAPE, such as reduction of the learning curve and more precise tissue handling. It is unknown whether this approach results in improved surgical or quality of life outcomes compared with l-ELAPE. This study aimed to address this issue.METHODS
Consecutive patients having undergone either robotic or laparoscopic ELAPE for adenocarcinoma were studied. All operations were performed by two surgeons experienced in laparoscopic and recently introduced robotic surgery. Surgical outcomes were determined by postoperative histology and short-term complications. Quality of life was prospectively assessed using the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer QLC-CR30 and QLC-CR29 questionnaires.RESULTS
A total of 22 patients (11 r-ELAPE) with a median follow-up of 13 months (8 months robotic; 22 months laparoscopic) were studied. The groups were similarly matched for age, gender, American Society of Anesthesiologists status, preoperative chemoradiotherapy and tumour height. All had R0 resection. There was no significant difference in short-term surgical outcomes between groups. There was no significant difference in mean global health scores between the two groups (74 ± 14 r-ELAPE vs. 73 ± 10 l-ELAPE). The r-ELAPE group had a lower mean impotence score compared with the I-ELAPE group (55.5 ± 40 vs. 72.2 ± 44), although this was not statistically significant.CONCLUSIONS
The newly introduced r-ELAPE was non-inferior to l-ELAPE in either patient quality of life or surgical outcomes. Robotic surgery could be particularly beneficial in the technically challenging area of low rectal cancer surgery with a shorter learning curve than laparoscopy.