BACKGROUND: Anastomotic leakage in operations for colorectal cancer not only results in morbidity and mortality, but also increases the risk of local recurrence and worsens prognosis. So a better understanding of risk factors for developing anastomotic leakage in colorectal cancer surgery is important to surgeons. The aim of this study was to determine the incidence and risk factors for clinical anastomotic leakage after elective surgery for colorectal cancer. STUDY DESIGN: We conducted prospective surveillance of all elective colorectal resections performed by a single surgeon in a single university hospital from November 2000 to July 2004. The outcomes of interest was clinical anastomotic leakage. Eighteen independent clinical variables were examined by univariate and multivariate analyses. RESULTS: A total of 391 patients undergoing elective operations for colorectal cancer were admitted to the program. Clinical anastomotic leakage was identified in 11(2.8%) patients. Univariate and multivariate analyses showed that preoperative steroid use (odds ratio = 8.7), longer duration of operation (odds ratio = 9.9), and wound contamination (odds ratio = 7.8) were independently predictive of clinical anastomotic leakage. Although there were no statistical differences in leakage rates between patients with and without covering stoma, all four patients requiring reoperation for leakage were without covering stoma. CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative steroid use, longer duration of operation, and contamination of the operative field were independent risk factors for developing clinical anastomotic leakage after elective resection for colorectal cancer. Surgeons should be aware of such high-risk patients, which would help them to decide whether to create a diversion stoma during surgery.
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