International Journal of Colorectal Disease

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 197–206 | Cite as

Volume and outcome in rectal cancer surgery: the importance of quality management

  • Werner Hohenberger
  • Susanne Merkel
  • Paul Hermanek
Original Article



For many years, the impact of the surgeon volume on short- and long-term outcome after rectal carcinoma surgery is controversially discussed. Literature and own department data were reviewed in order to clarify the impact of surgeon volume in the current era of total mesorectal excision surgery, multimodal therapy, quality management, and centralization of cancer care.


Uni- and multivariate analysis of data from 1,028 patients with solitary rectal carcinoma, treated between 1995 and 2010 at the Department of Surgery, University Hospital, Erlangen, Germany, was performed. Surgeons were subdivided according to the number of operations/year into high- (at least seven/year), medium- (three to six), and low- (less than three) volume surgeons.


Of 1,028 patients, 800 (77.8 %) were operated by five high-volume surgeons, 193 (18.8 %) by seven medium-volume surgeons, and 35 (3.4 %) by 12 low-volume surgeons. Surgeon volume was significantly associated with postoperative mortality and the rate of positive pathological circumferential resection margin. In risk-adjusted analysis, after primary surgery, surgeon volume had a significant impact on observed overall survival and disease-free survival, but not on locoregional recurrence. After neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy, only observed overall survival was significantly influenced by surgeon volume.


In surgical departments with special interest in rectal carcinoma, surgeon volume has some influence on short- and long-term outcome. Irrespective of this fact, specialization, experience, individual skill, hospital organization, and regular quality assurance are essential prognostic factors ensuring good results in rectal carcinoma surgery.


Long-term outcome Quality management Rectal carcinoma Short-term outcome Surgeon volume TME (Total mesorectal excision) surgery 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Werner Hohenberger
    • 1
  • Susanne Merkel
    • 1
  • Paul Hermanek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryFriedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany

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