CORONADO, CALIF. – With the exception of patients that present with perforation, emergent resection of colon cancers does not appear to adversely affect operative outcomes or patient survival, a 3-year analysis of data showed.
At the annual meeting of the Western Surgical Association, Jason W. Smith, MD, said that of the estimated 106,100 new cases of colon cancer each year, 6%-30% of patients have symptoms or late complications related to the disease that require an emergency intervention, often leading to dismal outcomes. “The problem with many existing studies of emergent colon cancer resections is that they tend to throw everybody into one large group, making it difficult to compare some of these patients,” said, a trauma surgeon in the department of surgery at the University of Louisville (Ky.) School of Medicine. “Our thought was, if we provide an appropriate oncologic resection at the time of our initial management in these patients when they come to the emergency department, can we affect the similar rate of overall outcomes for these patients with regard to their cancer prognosis?”
Of the 117 patients in the emergent group, 35 had a perforation and 82 had an emergent resection. In an unmatched analysis comparing perforation, emergent resection, and elective resection, the patients who presented with a perforation had a much higher Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) score and a higher American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) class. They tended to be on vasopressors or suffering from inflammatory response related to their perforation, they had lower levels of blood pressure and hemoglobin, and they had much higher rates of 30-day mortality and overall 30-day morbidity, compared with their counterparts in the other two groups. Of the eight deaths that occurred in patients with colon perforation, four were related to sepsis and multiple organ failure, one to respiratory failure/acute respiratory distress syndrome, one to acute MI, one to exacerbation of chronic lung disease, and one to transition to palliative care due to cancer diagnosis. “So the overall predominance of the deaths associated in the first 30 days were related to the inflammatory responses associated with that perforation, not specific to the cancer itself,” Dr. Smith said. At the same time, the ASA and CCI scores were not different between those with morbidity/mortality and those who survived. “So it’s difficult to identify these patients out of the gate,” he said.
When the researchers more closely examined data from patients with a perforation, 27 of 35 (77%) survived at 30 days. Survival at 1, 2, and 3 years was 78%, 57%, and 43%, respectively. “This is a mixture of stage II and stage IV patients, so they’re difficult to compare and difficult to standardize across the board,” Dr. Smith noted. “But what you see is that their survival is not significantly different related to their disease if you discount the inflammatory process. Our initial thought was that for these perforated cancers, what we really need to do is provide the appropriate oncologic resection management [in order to] get the same oncologic outcomes.”
Next, the researchers compared the 82 patients who presented without a perforation but required an emergent operation with 82 of the elective surgery patients, matched for age, gender, the CCI, ASA class, oncology stage, and body mass index. There were no differences between the two groups in terms of R0 resection, the number of lymph nodes sampled, or estimated blood loss. However, compared with patients in the elective resection group, those in the emergent resection group had higher rates of ostomy placement (30% vs. 10%, respectively; P = .01), and a longer hospital length of stay (an average of 18 vs. 12 days; P = .0007). “Most of that difference occurred on the front end of hospital stays,” Dr. Smith said. “Their postoperative days were not significantly different.”
As for long-term outcomes, more than 90% of all patients in both groups received chemotherapy within the first year postprocedure, and overall time to initiation of chemotherapy was not significantly different in the emergent vs. elective groups (6.6 vs. 5.5 weeks, respectively; P = .43). However, patients suffering postsurgical complications had an increased risk of delayed chemotherapy.
In a risk-adjusted analysis, overall survival at 3 years was not different between the emergent and elective operation groups (hazard ratio, 1.1; P = .54). Similarly, disease-free survival was not different at 3 years between the two groups (HR, 1.06; P = .84). Independent predictors of poor long-term outcome included age greater than 70 (HR, 1.45; P less than 0.03); elevated ASA class (HR, 2.99 for class III vs. class I-II; P = .08; and HR, 7.45 for ASA class IV vs. I-II; P = .03); presence of residual disease (HR, 3.08; P less than .001), and advanced cancer stage.
He acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including the fact that it was a blinded retrospective cohort with the potential for unrecognized bias, and that it measured 3-year survival instead of 5-year survival data.
“Emergent resection of nonperforated colon cancers does not appear to adversely affect operative outcomes or patient survival when proper oncologic principles are applied to their initial management,” Dr. Smith concluded. “Outcome differences in patients suffering perforation may correlate with the physiologic derangements associated with the perforation rather than the oncologic disease; thus, every effort should be made to provide an appropriate oncologic operation.” He reported having no financial disclosures.