Impact of Anastomotic Leak on Long-term Oncological Outcomes after Restorative Surgery for Rectal Cancer: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Rebekah M. Engel, Karen Oliva, Suellyn Centauri, Wei Wang, Paul J. McMurrick, Raymond Yap

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Anastomotic leak after restorative surgery for rectal cancer is a major complication and may lead to worse long-term oncological and survival outcomes. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to identify risk factors associated with anastomotic leak and to assess the perioperative and long-term oncological impact of anastomotic leak in our cohort of patients with rectal cancer. DESIGN: A retrospective analysis was performed on data from the prospectively maintained Cabrini Monash colorectal neoplasia database. Patients who had undergone rectal cancer resection and subsequently received anastomosis between November 2009 and May 2020 were included in this study. Patient and tumor characteristics, technical risk factors, and short-term and perioperative as well as long-term oncological and survival outcomes were assessed. SETTINGS: The study was conducted in 3 tertiary hospitals. PATIENTS: A total of 693 patients met the inclusion criteria for this study. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Univariate analyses were performed to assess the relationship between anastomotic leak and patient and technical risk factors, as well as perioperative and long-term outcomes. Univariate and multivariate proportional HR models of overall and disease-free survival were calculated. Kaplan-Meier survival analyses assessed disease-free and overall survival. RESULTS: Anastomotic leak rate was 3.75%. Males had an increased risk of anastomotic leak, as did patients with hypertension and ischemic heart disease. Patients who experience an anastomotic leak were more likely to require reoperation and hospital readmission and were more likely to experience an inpatient death. Disease-free and overall survival were also negatively impacted by anastomotic leaks. LIMITATIONS: This is a retrospective analysis of data from only 3 centers with the usual limitations. However, these effects have been minimized because of the high quality and completeness of the prospective data collection. CONCLUSIONS: Anastomotic leaks after restorative surgery negatively affect long-term oncological and survival outcomes for patients with rectal cancer. See Video Abstract at

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-933
Number of pages11
JournalDiseases of the Colon and Rectum
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Anastomotic leak
  • Colorectal surgery
  • Oncologic outcome
  • Rectal cancer

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