Objective Surgical technique and peri-operative management of rectal carcinoma have developed substantially in the last decades. Despite this, morbidity and mortality after anterior resection of the rectum are still important problems. The aim of this study was to identify risk factors for anastomotic leakage in anterior resection and to assess the role of a temporary stoma and the need for urgent re-operations in relation to anastomotic leakage.
Patients and methods In a nine-year period, from 1987 to 1995, a total of 6833 patients underwent elective anterior resection of the rectum in Sweden. A random sample of 432 of these patients was analysed (sample size 6.3%). The associations between death and 10 patient- and surgery-related variables were studied by univariate and multivariate analysis. Data were obtained by review of the hospital files from all patients.
Results The incidence of symptomatic clinically evident anastomotic leakage was 12% (53/432). The 30-day mortality was 2.1% (140/6833). The rate of mortality associated with leakage was 7.5%. A temporary stoma was initially fashioned in 17% (72/432) of the patients, and 15% (11/72) with a temporary stoma had a clinical leakage, compared with 12% (42/360) without a temporary stoma, not significant. Multivariate analysis showed that low anastomosis (≤ 6 cm), pre-operative radiation, presence of intra-operative adverse events and male gender were independent risk factors for leakage. The risk for permanent stoma after leakage was 25%. Females with stoma leaked in 3% compared to men with stoma who leaked in 29%. The median hospital stay for patients without leakage was 10 days (range 5–61 days) and for patients with leakage 22 days (3–110 days).
Conclusion In this population based study, 12% of the patients had symptomatic anastomotic leakage after anterior resection of the rectum. Postoperative 30-day mortality was 2.1%. Low anastomosis, pre-operative radiation, presence of intra-operative adverse events and male gender were independent risk factors for symptomatic anastomotic leakage in the multivariate analysis. There was no difference in the use of temporary stoma in patients with or without anastomotic leakage.