Purpose: Although multiple studies have examined anastomotic leakage (AL) after low anterior resection (LAR), their definitions of AL varied, and few have studied late diagnosed AL after surgery. This study aimed to characterize late AL after anal sphincter saving surgery (SSS) for rectal cancer by examining clinical characteristics, risk factors, and management of patients with late AL compared with early AL. Methods: Data from January 2005 to December 2014 were collected from a total of 1903 consecutive patients who underwent anal sphincter saving surgery for rectal cancer and were retrospectively reviewed. Late AL was defined as AL diagnosed more than 30 days after surgery. Variables and risk factors associated with early and late diagnosed AL were analyzed by multivariate logistic regression. Results: Overall, early, and late rates of AL were 13.7%, 6.7%, and 7%, respectively. Receiving neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (nCRT) was a risk factor for developing late AL, but not early AL (OR, 3.032; 95% CI, 1.947–4.722; p < 0.001). Protective ileostomy did not protect against late AL. Among the 134 patients with late AL, 26 (19.4%) were classified as asymptomatic and 108 patients (80.6%) as symptomatic. The most frequent symptomatic complications related to late AL were fistula (42 cases, 39.7%), chronic sinus (33 cases, 31.1%), and stenosis (31 cases, 29.2%). Conclusion: Clinical characteristics, risk factors, and management of patients with late AL after SSS were different from early AL. Close attention should be given to consider late AL as the continuation of early AL.
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