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World J Gastrointest Surg. Sep 27, 2010; 2(9): 275-282
Published online Sep 27, 2010. doi: 10.4240/wjgs.v2.i9.275
Laparoscopic surgery for rectal cancer: The state of the art
Carlo Staudacher, Andrea Vignali
Carlo Staudacher, Andrea Vignali, Department of Surgery, IRCCS San Raffaele, University Vita-Salute, Via Olgettina 60, 20132 Milan, Italy
Author contributions: Staudacher C wrote the manuscript; Vignali A co- wrote and reviewed the paper critically.
Correspondence to: Carlo Staudacher, MD, FACS, Professor, Head, Department of Surgery, IRCCS San Raffaele, University Vita-Salute, Via Olgettina 60, 20132 Milan, Italy. carlo.staudacher@hsr.it
Telephone: 39-2-26432270 Fax: 39-2-26432861
Received: January 28, 2010
Revised: September 14, 2010
Accepted: September 21, 2010
Published online: September 27, 2010

At present time, there is evidence from randomized controlled studies of the success of laparoscopic resection for the treatment of colon cancer with reported smaller incisions, lower morbidity rate and earlier recovery compared to open surgery. Technical limitations and a steep learning curve have limited the wide application of mini-invasive surgery for rectal cancer. The present article discusses the current status of laparoscopic resection for rectal cancer. A review of the more recent retrospective, prospective and randomized controlled trial (RCT) data on laparoscopic resection of rectal cancer including the role of trans-anal endoscopic microsurgery and robotics was performed. A particular emphasis was dedicated to mid and low rectal cancers. Few prospective and RCT trials specifically addressing laparoscopic rectal cancer resection are currently available in the literature. Improved short-term outcomes in term of lesser intraoperative blood loss, reduced analgesic requirements and a shorter hospital stay have been demonstrated. Concerns have recently been raised in the largest RCT trial of the oncological adequacy of laparoscopy in terms of increased rate of circumferential margin. This data however was not confirmed by other prospective comparative studies. Moreover, a similar local recurrence rate has been reported in RCT and comparative series. Similar findings of overall and disease free survival have been reported but the follow-up time period is too short in all these studies and the few RCT trials currently available do not draw any definitive conclusions. On the basis of available data in the literature, the mini-invasive approach to rectal cancer surgery has some short-term advantages and does not seem to confer any disadvantage in term of local recurrence. With respect to long-term survival, a definitive answer cannot be given at present time as the results of RCT trials focused on long-term survival currently ongoing are still to fully clarify this issue.

Keywords: Postoperative complications, Recurrence rate, Transanal endoscopic microsurgery, Robotics, Long-term outcome, Prognosis, Rectal cancer, Laparoscopy