Results from specialist centres have shown that total mesorectal excision (TME) produces excellent control of local disease in patients with carcinoma of the rectum.


The results of TME were reviewed in a surgical practice in which patients with rectal cancer comprised 1 per cent of the total caseload and mean case numbers were less than 15 each year.


Eighty-two consecutive patients underwent rectal excision with TME over a 72-month period (68 anterior resection, eight abdominoperineal excision and six Hartmann's procedure). Sixty-nine operations were deemed ‘curative’ at the time of surgery. Anastomotic leak occurred in two (3 per cent) of 68 patients, both of whom recovered without additional surgery. There were two local recurrences (3 per cent) among 69 patients who underwent ‘curative’ surgery. At a median follow-up of 190 weeks, the survival rate for Dukes' stage A, B, C and ‘D’ was 100, 83, 68 and 18 per cent respectively.


Outcome as measured by perioperative morbidity and local disease control achieved in a surgical practice with a broad case mix and relatively low annual case volume was comparable to that from larger centres. Appropriate surgical training and attention to technical detail may be as important as case volume in determining outcome after surgery for rectal cancer. © 2002 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd