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J Clin Oncol. 2002 Feb 1;20(3):817-25.

Acute side effects and complications after short-term preoperative radiotherapy combined with total mesorectal excision in primary rectal cancer: report of a multicenter randomized trial.

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Department of Clinical Oncology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.



Total mesorectal excision (TME) surgery in the treatment of rectal cancer has been shown to result in a reduction in the number of local recurrences in retrospective studies. Reports on improved local control after preoperative, hypofractionated radiotherapy (RT) have led to the introduction of a prospective randomized multicenter trial, in which the effect of TME surgery with or without preoperative RT were evaluated. Any benefit in regard to a reduced local recurrence rate and possible improved survival must be weighed against potential adverse effects in both the short-term and the long-term. The present study was undertaken to assess the acute side effects of short-term, preoperative RT in rectal cancer patients and to study the influence of five doses of 5 Gy on surgical parameters, postoperative morbidity and mortality in patients randomized in the Dutch TME trial.


We analyzed 1,530 Dutch patients entered onto a prospective randomized trial, comparing preoperative RT with five doses of 5 Gy followed by TME surgery with TME surgery alone, of which 1,414 patients were assessable. Toxicity from RT, surgery characteristics, and postoperative complications and mortality were compared.


Toxicity during RT hardly occurred. Irradiated patients had 100 mL more blood loss during the operation (P <.001) and showed more perineal complications (P =.008) in cases of abdominoperineal resection. The total number of complications was slightly increased in the irradiated group (P =.008). No difference was observed in postoperative mortality (4.0% v 3.3%) or in the number of reinterventions.


Preoperative hypofractionated RT is a safe procedure in patients treated with TME surgery, despite a slight increase in complications when compared with TME surgery only.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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