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J Am Coll Surg. 2005 Jun;200(6):876-82; discussion 882-4.

Complications after preoperative combined modality therapy and radical resection of locally advanced rectal cancer: a 14-year experience from a specialty service.

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  • 1Colorectal Service, Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10021, USA.



Preoperative combined modality therapy followed by total mesorectal excision has emerged as the optimal treatment paradigm for locally advanced rectal cancer (T3 to 4, N1, or both). But its impact on postoperative complications has not been adequately evaluated. Our aims were to evaluate our comprehensive experience and identify factors predictive of complications in this patient population.


The study group consisted of 297 consecutive patients with locally advanced rectal adenocarcinoma treated with preoperative combined modality therapy (radiation: 5,040 cGy; chemotherapy: 5-FU-based) and then operation. Major complications were defined as those requiring medical or surgical treatment. A prospectively collected database was queried to determine the incidence of postoperative complications and associated clinicopathologic factors.


Median followup was 43.9 months (range 0.8 to 128.6 months). There were no postoperative mortalities (within 30 days of operation). But there were 145 major complications in 98 patients (33% of study population). The most common complications were small bowel obstruction (n = 32 [11%]) and wound infection (n = 31 [10%]). There were eight anastomotic leaks (4%) and nine pelvic abscesses (4%) in patients treated with low anterior resection (n = 210). Preoperative comorbidity was the only clinicopathologic factor associated with postoperative complications (p = 0.02). Postoperative complications had no significant impact on oncologic outcomes.


Although postoperative mortalities are rare, complications requiring treatment can be anticipated in one-third of patients undergoing preoperative combined modality therapy and total mesorectal excision. A policy of selective fecal diversion after preoperative combined modality therapy and total mesorectal excision for locally advanced rectal cancer can achieve low rates of pelvic sepsis, but may lead to an increased incidence of small bowel obstruction.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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