Local recurrence after curative anterior resection with principally blunt dissection for carcinoma of the rectum and rectosigmoid

A. L. Polglase, P. J. McMurrick, Ann Tremayne, P. S. Bhathal

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PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of local pelvic recurrence of carcinoma of the rectum and rectosigmoid (tumors where the lower edge is 18 cm or less from the anal verge) in a consecutive series of patients operated on by a single surgeon. All patients underwent curative anterior resection and a formal anatomic dissection of the rectum where mobilization was achieved through a principally careful blunt manual technique along fascial planes, preserving an oncologic package. METHOD: During the period April 1986 to December 1997, 157 consecutive anterior resections for carcinoma of the rectum and rectosigmoid were performed by one surgeon (ALP). One hundred thirty-eight (87.9 percent) were curative, and 19 (12.1 percent) were palliative. The mean follow-up period was 46 ± 31.6 (range, 2-140) months. Data were retrospectively collated and computer coded by an independent contracted medical research team. Follow-up data were available on all patients. RESULTS: Four (3.1 percent) of the 131 patients undergoing curative anterior resection had local recurrence. Local recurrences occurred between 16 and 38 months from the time of resection, and the cumulative risk of developing local recurrence at five years was 5.2 percent. All tumors in which pelvic recurrence occurred were high grade, and the probability of developing local recurrence at five years for this group was 13.9 percent, which is significantly higher compared with patients who had average or low-grade tumors (P = 0.01). The probability of developing local recurrence at five years for Stage I tumors was O, Stage II was 5.9 percent, and Stage III was 8.9 percent. In addition, there was a significantly higher incidence of local recurrence in the group of patients undergoing ultralow anterior resection (between 3 and 6 cm from the anal verge) as compared with patients undergoing low or high anterior resection (P = 0.03). Local recurrence developed in 3 of 28 (10.7 percent) patients having ultralow anterior resection, 1 of 57 (1.8 percent) patients having low anterior resection (between 6 and 10 cm from the anal verge), and no patients having high anterior resection (above 10 cm from the anal verge). The clinical anastomotic leak rate for curative anterior resection was 7 of 131 patients (5.3 percent). Thirty-seven of the 131 (28.2 percent) required a proximal defunctioning stoma; 35 (41.2 percent) of these were established for low or ultralow anterior resections and 2 for high anterior resection. The overall five-year cancer-specific survival rate of the entire group of 131 patients was 81.8 percent, and the overall probability of being disease free at five years including both local and distal recurrence was 72.9 percent. Three local recurrences occurred in the 101 patients (77 percent) who did not receive any form of adjuvant therapy. One local recurrence occurred in the 18 patients (13.7 percent) who had adjuvant chemoradiation. No recurrence occurred in the 12 patients (9.2 percent) who had adjuvant chemotherapy alone. CONCLUSION: Curative anterior resection for carcinoma of the rectum and rectosigmoid with principally blunt dissection of the rectum in this study is associated with a 3.1 percent incidence and a 5.2 percent probability at five years of developing local recurrence. Evidence from this study indicates that, as with sharp pelvic dissection, a low incidence and probability of local recurrence can be achieved by a principally blunt mobilization technique through careful attention to preservation of fascial planes in the pelvis and removal of an oncologic package with selective rather than routine adjuvant or neoadjuvant chemoradiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947-954
Number of pages8
JournalDiseases of the Colon and Rectum
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2001


  • Blunt rectal mobilization
  • Curative anterior resection
  • Fascial planes
  • High-grade carcinoma
  • Local recurrence
  • Oncologic package
  • Stage II and III carcinoma
  • Ultralow anterior resection

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