, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 843-849
Date: 13 Apr 2010

Delayed anastomotic leakage following sphincter-preserving surgery for rectal cancer

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



The aim of the present study was to investigate the characteristics of patients who developed delayed anastomotic leakage (DAL) following sphincter-preserving surgery for rectal cancer. We evaluated the following factors: (1) the incidence of DAL, (2) the clinical features of patients who developed DAL, (3) the risk factors for DAL, and (4) treatment outcomes.


We reviewed the case histories of 1,838 rectal cancer patients who had undergone curative resection with sphincter preservation and without protective stoma formation between January 2000 and December 2006. DAL was defined as the development of a pelvic abscess or fistula around the anastomosis more than 3 weeks post-surgery in patients without tumor recurrence who had resumed a normal diet and defecation.


In 1.3% (24/1,838) of the patients, DAL developed on median postoperative day 99 (range 22–2,069). Pelvic abscess (50%) and anastomotic–vaginal fistula (41.7%) were the most common causes of DAL. Independent risk factors for the development of DAL were: (1) female gender (hazard ratio 3.03; 95% CI 1.06–8.8), (2) low-level anastomosis (≤4 cm from the anal verge) (hazard ratio 5.76; 95% CI 1.37–22.39), and (3) preoperative chemoradiation therapy (hazard ratio 4.56; 95% CI 1.4–14.92). Stoma formation was performed in all of the 24 patients. The 3-year stoma-retention rate in patients with DAL was significantly higher than in patients with early anastomotic leakage (72.2% vs 17.5%, P < 0.001).


DAL following sphincter-preserving surgery for rectal cancer occurred relatively frequently in our sample and was associated with female gender, a low level of anastomosis, and preoperative radiotherapy. DAL patients required long-term or permanent stomas.

This study was supported by a grant from the Korean Health 21 R&D project of the Ministry of Health & Welfare, Republic of Korea (A062254).