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01.09.2009 | Original Article | Ausgabe 9/2009

International Journal of Colorectal Disease 9/2009

Determinants of morbidity and survival after elective non-curative resection of stage IV colon and rectal cancer

International Journal of Colorectal Disease > Ausgabe 9/2009
Axel Kleespies, Kathrin E. Füessl, Hendrik Seeliger, Martin E. Eichhorn, Mario H. Müller, Markus Rentsch, Wolfgang E. Thasler, Martin K. Angele, Martin E. Kreis, Karl-Walter Jauch
Wichtige Hinweise

Financial support

Neither one of the authors nor the institutions from which the work originated have asked for, accepted, or received any direct or indirect financial support from a third party regarding the matter and materials discussed in this paper.



The benefit of elective primary tumor resection for non-curable stage IV colorectal cancer (CRC) remains largely undefined. We wanted to identify risk factors for postoperative complications and short survival.


Using a prospective database, we analyzed potential risk factors in 233 patients, who were electively operated for non-curable stage IV CRC between 1996 and 2002. Patients with recurrent tumors, resectable metastases, emergency operations, and non-resective surgery were excluded. Risk factors for increased postoperative morbidity and limited postoperative survival were identified by multivariate analyses.


Patients with colon cancer (CC = 156) and rectal cancer (RC = 77) were comparable with regard to age, sex, comorbidity, American Society of Anesthesiologists score, carcinoembryonic antigen levels, hepatic spread, tumor grade, resection margins, 30-day mortality (CC 5.1%, RC 3.9%) and postoperative chemotherapy. pT4 tumors, carcinomatosis, and non-anatomical resections were more common in colon cancer patients, whereas enterostomies (CC 1.3%, RC 67.5%, p < 0.0001), anastomotic leaks (CC 7.7%, RC 24.2%, p = 0.002), and total surgical complications (CC 19.9%, RC 40.3%, p = 0.001) were more frequent after rectal surgery. Independent determinants of an increased postoperative morbidity were primary rectal cancer, hepatic tumor load >50%, and comorbidity >1 organ. Prognostic factors for limited postoperative survival were hepatic tumor load >50%, pT4 tumors, lymphatic spread, R1–2 resection, and lack of chemotherapy.


Palliative resection is associated with a particularly unfavorable outcome in rectal cancer patients presenting with a locally advanced tumor (pT4, expected R2 resection) or an extensive comorbidity, and in all CRC patients who show a hepatic tumor load >50%. For such patients, surgery might be contraindicated unless the tumor is immediately life-threatening.

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