Conference Coverage

Strategies to reduce colorectal surgery complications



– Colorectal surgery is rife with potential complications, but there are steps that surgeons can take to improve outcomes, and factors to consider to reduce complications. These strategies and considerations were the focus of a talk by Matthew G. Mutch, MD, at the Annual Minimally Invasive Surgery Symposium by Global Academy for Medical Education.


The approach to improve outcomes can begin with prehabilitation – preparing the patient for the difficult process of surgery. “If somebody is going to fight a 15-round heavyweight bout, they train for 6 or 8 weeks before a fight. Why not bring that concept to surgery?” said Dr. Mutch, chief of colon and rectal surgery at the Washington University, St. Louis.

Prehabilitation can include lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, but can also incorporate aerobic and/or resistance exercise, dietary counseling and protein supplementation, anxiety reduction, and medical education to prepare the patient for the challenges ahead. “Preoperatively, we try to identify factors to see if we can make meaningful lifestyle changes, because that’s really the grassroots level where a lot of this [improvement in outcomes] is going to occur,” said Dr. Mutch.


Frailty is a factor driving complications in colorectal surgery. A meta-analysis of 20 studies showed that frailty and prefrailty were associated with worse all-cause mortality during follow-up among older cancer patients. More striking, it showed that frail patients were nearly five times more likely to be intolerant of cancer treatment (odds ratio, 4.86) and more likely to experience postoperative complications (30-day hazard ratio, 3.19) (Ann Oncol. 2015;26[6]:1091-1101).

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