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Surg Clin North Am. 2002 Oct;82(5):1019-33.

The role of laparoscopy in the multimodality treatment of colorectal cancer.

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  • 1The University of Hull, Academic Surgical Unit, Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham, East Yorkshire Y016 5JQ, United Kingdom.


Ten years after the first reports of laparoscopic techniques in colorectal surgery the precise role for these approaches in future colorectal practice as still to be defined. However, it seems most unlikely that the application is going to disappear. Laparoscopic colectomy is undoubtedly a complex. time-consuming procedure and it is clear that the technique is intolerant of difficult cases and will likely remain thus. Therefore. the potential advantages of laparoscopy do not as yet appear to be attainable across the board in colorectal resection. Such generalized advantage may, however, be tantalizingly close. Although many studies have failed to show major benefits for laparoscopy in terms of postoperative recovery, it must be remembered that most of these have been of insufficient statistical power to settle the issue. What is clear to all involved in the field is that very many patients do gain major benefit from the minimally invasive approach. The challenge for the future lies in developing the technology to such a point that these benefits for patients are more reproducible. The requirement for a significant abdominal incision to deliver an intact specimen represents a significant hurdle in this regard. The importance of pathological staging for colorectal cancer at present mandates retrieval of an intact specimen. It is of course possible that radiological staging may develop to such a point that surgeons need only remove the lesion with minimal attention to lymphadenectomy. Alternatively, new adjuvant therapies may arrive that, by virtue of increased efficacy and low side-effect profiles, may be applicable to all but the earliest lesions. Finally, increasing health awareness and application of screening programs may lead to a preponderance of large polyps and preinvasive lesions for which a more limited resection may be appropriate. Obviously these scenarios remain almost entirely speculative. However, the trend towards less invasive local therapy for colorectal cancer seems inexorable, and we firmly believe that laparoscopy will come to play an increasing role. Finally, we suggest that the oncological safety of laparoscopy is of less concern than was the case some years ago. The specter of port-site metastasis, once so alarming, has faded. It is now apparent from all of the larger scale studies that port-site metastases are not a significant issue in the presence of adequate training and laparoscopic skills. Almost without exception, the accumulating evidence seems to point to equivalence in terms of disease-specific recurrence and survival between patients treated using conventional and laparoscopic techniques. We foresee these findings being confirmed by the North American and European trials.

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