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13.06.2016 | Review | Ausgabe 8/2016 Open Access

International Journal of Colorectal Disease 8/2016

Is the intraoperative air leak test effective in the prevention of colorectal anastomotic leakage? A systematic review and meta-analysis

International Journal of Colorectal Disease > Ausgabe 8/2016
Zhouqiao Wu, Remondus C. J. van de Haar, Cloë L. Sparreboom, Geesien S. A. Boersema, Ziyu Li, Jiafu Ji, Johannes Jeekel, Johan F. Lange



The intra-operative air leak test (ALT) is a common intraoperative test used to identify mechanically insufficient anastomosis. This meta-analysis aims to determine whether ALT aids to the reduction of postoperative colorectal anastomotic leakage (CAL).


A literature search was performed to select studies in acknowledged databases. Full text articles targeting ALT during colorectal surgery were included. Quality assessment, risk of bias, and the level-of-evidence of the inclusions were evaluated. ALT methodology, ALT(+) (i.e., leak observed during the test) rate, and postoperative CAL rate of the included studies were subsequently analyzed.


Twenty studies were included for analysis, in which we found substantial risks of bias. A lower CAL rate was observed in patients who underwent ALT than those did not; however, the difference was not significant (p = 0.15). The intraoperative ALT(+) rate greatly varied among the included studies from 1.5 to 24.7 %. ALT(+) patients possessed a significantly higher CAL rate than the ALT(−) patients (11.4 vs. 4.2 %, p < 0.001).


Based on the available evidence, performing an ALT with the reported methodology has not significantly reduced the clinical CAL rate but remains necessary due to a higher risk of CAL in ALT(+) cases. Unfortunately, additional repairs under current methods may not effectively decrease this risk. Results of this review urge a standardization of ALT methodology and effective methods to repair ALT(+) anastomoses.

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