, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 1485-1502
Date: 25 Nov 2012

Laparoscopy for rectal cancer reduces short-term mortality and morbidity: results of a systematic review and meta-analysis

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Although definitive long-term results are not yet available, the global safety of laparoscopic surgery for rectal cancer treatment remains controversial. We evaluated differences in the safety of laparoscopic rectal resection versus open surgery for cancer.


A systematic review from 2000 to 2011 was performed searching the Medline and Embase databases (prospero registration CRD42012002406). We included randomized and prospective controlled clinical studies comparing laparoscopic and open resection for rectal cancer. Primary end points were 30-day mortality and overall morbidity. Then a meta-analysis was conducted by a fixed-effect model, performing a sensitivity analysis by a random-effect model. Relative risk (RR) was used as an indicator of treatment effect; a RR of less than 1.0 was in favor of laparoscopy. Publication bias was assessed by funnel plot and heterogeneity by the I 2 test and subgroup analysis on surgical and medical complications.


Twenty-three studies, representing 4,539 patients, met the inclusion criteria; eight were randomized for a total of 1,746 patients. Mortality was observed in 1.0 % of patients in the laparoscopic group and in 2.4 % of patients in the open group. The overall RR was 0.46 (95 % confidence interval 0.21–0.99, p = 0.048). The raw incidence of overall complications was lower in the laparoscopic group (31.8 %) compared to the open group (35.4 %). The overall RR was 0.83 (95 % confidence interval 0.76–0.91, p < 0.001).


On the basis of evidence of both randomized and prospective controlled series, mortality and morbidity RR, including subgroup analysis, were significantly lower after laparoscopic compared to open surgery.