Objective: To assess with a single-blinded, multicenter, randomized trial, the postoperative results in patients undergoing sphincter-saving rectal resection for cancer without preoperative mechanical bowel preparation (MBP).
Background: The collective evidence from literature strongly suggests that MBP, before elective colonic surgery, is of no benefit in terms of postoperative morbidity. Very few data and no randomized study are available for rectal surgery and preliminary results conclude toward the safety of rectal resection without MBP.
Methods: From October 2007 to January 2009, patients scheduled for elective rectal cancer sphincter-saving resection were randomized to receive preoperative MBP (ie, retrograde enema and oral laxatives) or not. Primary endpoint was the overall 30-day morbidity rate. Secondary endpoints included mortality rate, anastomotic leakage rate, major morbidity rate (Dindo III or more), degree of discomfort for the patient, and hospital stay.
Results: A total of 178 patients (103 men), including 89 in both groups (no-MBP and MBP groups), were included in the study. The overall and infectious morbidity rates were significantly higher in no-MBP versus MBP group, 44% versus 27%, P = 0.018, and 34% versus 16%, P = 0.005, respectively. Regarding both anastomotic leakage and major morbidity rates, there was no significant difference between no-MBP and MBP group: 19% versus 10% (P = 0.09) and 18% versus 11% (P = 0.69), respectively. Moderate or severe discomfort was reported by 40% of prepared patients. Mortality rate (1.1% vs 3.4%) and mean hospital stay (16 vs 14 days) did not differ significantly between both groups.
Conclusions: This first randomized trial demonstrated that rectal cancer surgery without MBP was associated with higher risk of overall and infectious morbidity rates without any significant increase of anastomotic leakage rate. Thus, it suggests continuing to perform MBP before elective rectal resection for cancer. This study is registered with clinicaltrials.gov, number NCT00554892.