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Abstract

The recent application of laparoscopic resection techniques to malignant disease has raised safety concerns due to metastasis to surgical access wounds. The significance and incidence of this problem are controversial. In the present study a rat model, in which an implanted tumour was lacerated, was used to investigate whether application of laparoscopic techniques for malignant abdominal disease leads to an increased risk of tumour dissemination and implantation within the peritoneal cavity, and abdominal wall wounds. Malignant cells were implanted into the abdominal wall of 42 rats, resulting 7 days later in the growth of a tumour measuring 20–25 mm in diameter. There were three control groups: no surgery (n = 6); blunt manipulation of the tumour laparoscopically (n = 6); and blunt manipulation of the tumour at laparotomy (n = 6). Twenty-four rats underwent surgical laceration of the tumour capsule at either laparoscopy (n = 12) or laparotomy (n = 12). All rats were killed 1 week later, and examined for macroscopic evidence of tumour metastasis. The abdominal surgical wounds were excised for independent microscopic examination by a histopathologist. Growth of the primary tumour was greater in rats that had an operation than in unoperated controls, and was greatest after laparotomy. However, wound metastases were five times more likely after laparoscopic tumour laceration than after the same procedure through an open incision (ten of 12 rats versus two of 12, P = 0.0033). Wound metastases following laparoscopic tumour manipulation are an important and real problem, with significant implications for the application of laparoscopic techniques to excise malignant disease in humans.