AIM: Laparoscopic colorectal cancer surgery has developed from unproven technique to mainstay of treatment. This study examined the application and relative outcomes of laparoscopic and open colorectal cancer surgery over time, as laparoscopic uptake and experience have grown.
METHODS: Adults undergoing elective laparoscopic and open colorectal cancer surgery in the English NHS during 2002-2012 were included. Age, sex, Charlson Comorbidity Index and Index of Multiple Deprivation were compared over time. Post-operative 30-day mortality, length of stay, failure to rescue reoperation and the associated mortality rate were examined.
RESULTS: Laparoscopy rates rose from 1.1 to 50.8%. Patients undergoing laparoscopic surgery had lower comorbidity by 0.24 points (95% confidence intervals (CI) 0.20-0.27) and lower socioeconomic deprivation by 0.16 deciles (95% CI 0.12-0.20) than those having open procedures. Overall mortality fell by 48.0% from 2002-2003 to 2011-2002 and was 37.8% lower after laparoscopic surgery. Length of stay and mortality after surgical re-intervention also fell. However, re-intervention rates were higher after laparoscopic procedures by 7.8% (95% CI 0.9-15.2%).
CONCLUSIONS: There was clear and persistent inequality in the application of laparoscopic colorectal cancer surgery during this study. Further work must explore and remedy inequalities to maximise patient benefit. Higher re-intervention rates after laparoscopy are unexplained and differ from randomized controlled trials. This may reflect differences in surgeons and practice between research and usual care settings and should be further investigated.