Background

Few studies on anastomotic condition after rectal-cancer resection and its effect on anastomotic leakage (AL) are available up to now. This study aimed to investigate potential radiation-induced injury left on surgical margins of anterior resection after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (nCRT) and its association with AL.

Methods

We retrospectively identified 161 consecutive patients who underwent anterior resection with nCRT, neoadjuvant chemotherapy without radiation (nCT) or no neoadjuvant therapy between 2014 and 2015. Tissue samples of resection margins were assessed using a specific histopathological score and microvessel density in submucosa. Propensity score matching was used to balance the baseline characteristics. Association between AL and histopathological features was analysed.

Results

AL occurred in 13 of 54 patients undergoing nCRT, 5 of 48 patients undergoing nCT and 7 of 59 patients without neoadjuvant therapy. Comparisons after matching showed median (range) histopathological scores as follows: 3 (0–8) vs 0 (0–3) vs 0 (0–2) for the proximal margin (P < 0.001); 4 (2–9) vs 0 (0–4) vs 0 (0–3) for the distal margin (P < 0.001). Correspondingly, mean (SD) microvessel densities were as follows: 21.7 (7.9) vs 27.2 (8.6) vs 27.3 (9.4) for the proximal margin (P = 0.003); 18.1 (9.3) vs 25.2 (12.9) vs 24.9 (7.4) for the distal margin (P < 0.001). Among patients undergoing nCRT, AL was associated with increased histopathological score (P = 0.003) and decreased microvessel density (P = 0.004) on the proximal margin.

Conclusions

Surgical margins of rectal-cancer resection are exposed to certain radiation-induced injury after nCRT. AL is associated with aggravated radiation damage on the proximal margin.

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