Although experience with laparoscopic colectomy continues to accumulate, criteria for patient selection for the procedure have yet to be developed. We propose that review of indications for conversion to laparotomy during laparoscopic colectomy should define some of the current technical limitations of the procedure. This information may facilitate development of selection criteria for laparoscopic colon and rectal surgery.
Single-institution retrospective medical records review.
Tertiary referral center.
Two hundred patients who underwent laparoscopic colon surgery, in 47 (23.5%) of whom the procedure was converted to laparotomy.
A registry of 200 patients who have undergone laparoscopic colon surgery was analyzed. Medical records of 47 patients whose procedure was converted were reviewed to assess indications for conversion and identify factors contributing to the need for conversion.
Between July 1, 1991, and September 30, 1998, 200 laparoscopic colon procedures were performed: 78 ascending colectomies, 74 descending or sigmoid colectomies, 14 diverting stomas, and 34 "other procedures." The 200 patients were divided into 4 cohorts of 50 consecutive patients to analyze changes with time. The conversion rate was statistically greater in the first quarter (18 patients [36.0%])than in subsequent quarters (16.0%; P <.05). The rate of conversion to laparotomy for segmental resection of the ascending and descending colon (31/153 [20.3%]) has been equivalent and less than the conversion rate for other procedures (16/33 [48.5%]; P <.05). The distribution of patients by operative indication has been fairly constant. The indication for operation has not influenced the need for conversion. The indications for conversion were technical problems in 15 patients (hypercarbia, unclear anatomy, and stapler misfire), laparoscopic complications in 9 patients (bleeding, cystotomy, and enterotomy), and problems that exceeded the limits of laparoscopic dissection in 23 patients (phlegmon, adhesions, obesity, and adjacent organ involvement by cancer).
Our conversion rate has decreased during our experience, and currently the need for conversion to laparotomy is most frequently caused by situations such as excessive tumor bulk, adhesions, and diverticular phlegmon that exceed the technical limitations of laparoscopic dissection. Colorectal reanastomosis following a Hartmann resection and procedures involving resection of the distal rectum are unlikely to be successfully completed. Although obesity accentuates the technical limitations of laparoscopic dissection, it is an infrequent cause for conversion to laparotomy.