Send to

Choose Destination
Dis Colon Rectum. 2013 Mar;56(3):275-80. doi: 10.1097/DCR.0b013e318277e8a5.

Consequences of anastomotic leak after restorative proctectomy for cancer: effect on long-term function and quality of life.

Author information

Department of Colorectal Surgery, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.



Long-term consequences of anastomotic leak after restorative proctectomy for rectal cancer, in terms of bowel function and quality of life, have been poorly delineated.


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the impact of anastomotic leak, when intestinal continuity can still be maintained, on bowel function and quality of life in patients undergoing rectal cancer resection with low colorectal or coloanal anastomoses.


From 1980 to 2010, 864 patients undergoing restorative resection for rectal cancers were identified from a prospective cancer database. Anastomotic leak detected by a combination of clinical, radiographic, and operative means was diagnosed in 52 (6%) patients.


Patients with anastomotic leak were compared with those without anastomotic leak for functional outcomes and quality of life at 1 year and most recent follow-up (mean 3.2 years) by using Short-Form 36 questionnaires (physical and mental component scales) and the Fecal Incontinence Severity Index.


American Society of Anesthesiologists' class (p = 0.48), cancer stage (p = 0.39), and the use of neoadjuvant therapy (p = 0.4) were similar in the 2 groups. Patients with anastomotic leak were younger (56 years vs 61 years; p = 0.007), more likely to be male (82% vs 64%; p = 0.008), and more likely to have undergone proximal diversion at proctectomy (51.9% vs 26.6%; p = 0.001). One year after proctectomy, patients with anastomotic leak had worse physical and mental component scores (p = 0.01), more frequent daytime (p = 0.001) and nighttime bowel movements (p = 0.03), and worse control of solid stool (p = 0.01) in comparison with those without an anastomotic leak. At most recent follow-up (leak, 3.3 years vs no leak, 2.4 years), patients with an anastomotic leak reported worse mental component scores and increased use of perineal pads.


Anastomotic leak after restorative resection for rectal cancer leads to early adverse consequences on bowel function and quality of life even when anastomotic continuity can be maintained. These findings may help counsel patients and clinicians regarding anticipated outcomes over the long term.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer
Loading ...
Support Center