To examine the role of total mesorectal excision in the management of rectal cancer.
A prospective consecutive case series.
A district hospital and referral center in Basingstoke, England.
Five hundred nineteen surgical patients with adenocarcinoma of the rectum treated for cure or palliation.
Anterior resections (n=465) with low stapled anastomoses (407 total mesorectal excisions), abdominoperineal resections (n=37), Hartmann resections (n=10), local excisions (n=4), and laparotomy only (n=3). Preoperative radiotherapy was used in 49 patients (7 with abdominoperineal resections, 38 with anterior resections, 3 with Hartmann resections, and 1 with laparotomy).
Main Outcome Measures
Local recurrence and cancer-specific survival.
Cancer-specific survival of all surgically treated patients was 68% at 5 years and 66% at 10 years. The local recurrence rate was 6% (95% confidence interval, 2%-10%) at 5 years and 8% (95% confidence interval, 2%-14%) at 10 years. In 405 "curative" resections, the local recurrence rate was 3% (95% confidence interval, 0%-5%) at 5 years and 4% (95% confidence interval, 0%-8%) at 10 years. Disease-free survival in this group was 80% at 5 years and 78% at 10 years. An analysis of histopathological risk factors for recurrence indicates only the Dukes stage, extramural vascular invasion, and tumor differentiation as variables in these results.
Rectal cancer can be cured by surgical therapy alone in 2 of 3 patients undergoing surgical excision in all stages and in 4 of 5 patients having curative resections. In future clinical trials of adjuvant chemotherapy and radiotherapy, strategies should incorporate total mesorectal excision as the surgical procedure of choice.