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Am Surg. 2001 Mar;67(3):261-4.

Acute colonic perforation associated with colorectal cancer.

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  • 1Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan 48202, USA.


Our purpose was to evaluate long-term outcome in patients presenting with acute colonic perforation in the setting of colorectal cancer. We conducted a retrospective review of 48 consecutive patients presenting with acute colonic perforation associated with colorectal cancer at a single institution. Patients presented either with free air or acute peritonitis. No patients with colonic obstruction were included. Forty-eight patients presented with colon perforation. Thirty-six had perforation at the tumor, 11 proximal to the tumor, and one distal to the primary tumor. Patients who perforated proximal to the tumor were older (74.5 +/- 2 vs 64.7 +/- 3; P < 0.04) and had a longer length of stay (46.8 +/- 17 vs 11.6 +/- 1 P < 0.001). Fourteen patients had stage II disease, 19 stage III, and 15 stage IV. Thirty-day mortality was 14 per cent (n = 7) with nine in-hospital deaths. Of 30-day survivors 29 (60%) had curative resection (21 with local perforation and nine with proximal perforation). Of these 14 received adjuvant chemotherapy. Eleven patients (33%) had either unresectable or metastatic disease on exploration. Mean follow-up was 21.5 months. Ten patients developed metastatic disease after potentially curative resections. Of these nine patients had perforations of the primary tumor. Three patients developed local recurrence and all had local tumor perforations. One-year survival was 55 per cent (n = 16). Five-year disease-free survival was 14 per cent (n = 4). There were no long-term survivors after perforation proximal to the tumor, although disease stage was comparable in both groups. We conclude that perforation proximal to a cancer is associated with a higher perioperative mortality and worse long-term outcome when compared with acute perforations at the site of the tumor. Long-term survival requires both aggressive management of the concomitant sepsis and definitive oncologic surgery.

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