Long-term Oncological Outcomes following Anastomotic Leak in Rectal Cancer Surgery

Jacopo Crippa, Emilie Duchalais, Nikolaos MacHairas, Amit Merchea, Scott R. Kelley, David W. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Anastomotic leak remains a critical complication after restorative rectal cancer surgery and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality rates, whereas reported rates range from 4% to 29%. Whether the occurrence of leak may have an impact on long-term oncological outcomes is under debate. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to describe the oncological impact of anastomotic leak on patients undergoing sphincter-preserving surgery for rectal adenocarcinoma. DESIGN: This is a retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database. SETTINGS: The study was conducted at a high-volume colorectal center. PATIENTS: Data on patients who underwent restorative surgery for rectal adenocarcinoma from January 2000 until December 2013 were retrospectively analyzed. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measured was the impact of anastomotic leak, defined according to the classification proposed by the International Study Group of Rectal Cancer, on long-term overall survival, disease-free survival, disease-specific survival, and local recurrence. RESULTS: A total of 787 patients undergoing sphincter-preserving surgery for rectal cancer met the inclusion criteria. Forty-two (5.3%) patients presented a symptomatic anastomotic leak. The median follow-up period was 64 months. Fifty-one (6.5%) patients experienced a cancer-related death, 2 of 42 in the anastomotic leak group. Five-year overall survival, disease-specific survival, and disease-free survival were 88%, 94.7%, and 85.3%. Local recurrence rate was 2%. There was no difference in long-term overall survival, disease-specific survival, disease-free survival, and local recurrence rate between groups. On a multivariable analysis, anastomotic leak did not impact oncological outcomes. LIMITATIONS: This study was limited by retrospective analysis. CONCLUSIONS: The occurrence of anastomotic leak after restorative resection for rectal cancer did not impact long-term oncological outcomes in our cohort of patients. See Video Abstract at http://links.lww.com/DCR/B187.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)769-777
Number of pages9
JournalDiseases of the colon and rectum
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Anastomotic leak
  • Disease-free survival
  • Oncological outcomes
  • Overall survival
  • Rectal cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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