Decision-making in rectal surgery
The decision to create a stoma after anterior resection has significant consequences. Decisions under uncertainty are made with a variety of cognitive tools, or heuristics. Past experience has been shown to be a powerful heuristic in other domains. Our aim was to identify whether the misfortune of recent anastomotic leakage or surgeon propensity to take everyday risks would affect their decision to defunction a range of anastomoses.
Questionnaires were sent to members of the Colorectal Surgical Society of Australia and New Zealand. Participants were asked for demographic information, questions regarding risk-taking propensity, when their last anastomotic leakage occurred and whether they would defunction a range of hypothetical rectal anastomoses grouped according to height, American Society of Anesthesiologists grade and use of preoperative radiotherapy. Scores were derived for hypothetical patient likelihood of having a stoma created and individual surgeon propensity for stoma formation. Hazard regression analysis was used to assess demographic predictors of stoma formation.
In total, 110 (75.3%) of 146 surveyed surgeons replied; 72 (65.5%) reported anastomotic leakage within the last 12 months. Surgeons' propensity for risk-taking was comparable (24.6 vs 27.53, 95% confidence interval, Mann–Whitney-U) to previously studied participants in economic models. Surgeon age (< 50 years) and lower propensity for risk-taking were demonstrated to be independent predictors of stoma formation on regression analysis.
Although the decision to create a stoma after anterior resection may be made in the belief that its foundation derives from rational thought, it appears that other unrecognized operator factors such as age and risk-taking exert an effect.