Objective An association between caseload and outcome has been reported for complex surgical procedures. We systematically reviewed recent literature to determine whether caseload and surgical speciality are associated with short-term outcome following colorectal cancer surgery.
Method We searched the MEDLINE and Cochrane Library databases for relevant publications starting in 1992. We selected hospital caseload and type, and surgeon's caseload, education and experience as variables of interest. Measures of outcome were postoperative morbidity, in-hospital and 30-day mortality, and for rectal cancer anastomotic leak. We stratified the 35 reviewed studies by tumor location: colonic cancer, rectal cancer, or colorectal cancer and described the studies individually. A meta-analysis was performed only when it was considered appropriate.
Results For colonic cancer, postoperative morbidity was associated with surgeon's caseload and education. Postoperative mortality was strongly associated with hospital caseload (OR 0.64, 95% CI 0.55–0.73), and surgeon's caseload (OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.39–0.64). It was also influenced by surgeon's education and experience. For rectal cancer, we found no evidence of an association between the selected variables and short-term outcome, including frequency of anastomotic leak. For colorectal cancer, there was evidence for an association between postoperative morbidity and hospital caseload.
Conclusion Our review offers evidence for a positive association between high hospital caseload, surgeon's caseload, sub-speciality and experience and improved short-term outcome in colonic cancer surgery. We failed to find evidence of a relationship for rectal cancer surgery, possibly owing to methodological artifacts. No study reported an inverse relation.