OBJECTIVE: To assess the effect of pelvic drainage after rectal surgery for cancer.
BACKGROUND: Pelvic sepsis is one of the major complications after rectal excision for rectal cancer. Although many studies have confirmed infectiveness of drainage after colectomy, there is still a controversy after rectal surgery.
METHODS: This multicenter randomized trial with 2 parallel arms (drain vs no drain) was performed between 2011 and 2014. Primary endpoint was postoperative pelvic sepsis within 30 postoperative days, including anastomotic leakage, pelvic abscess, and peritonitis. Secondary endpoints were overall morbidity and mortality, rate of reoperation, length of hospital stay, and rate of stoma closure at 6 months.
RESULTS: A total of 494 patients were randomized, 25 did not meet the criteria and 469 were analyzed: 236 with drain and 233 without. The anastomotic height was 3.5 +/- 1.9 cm from the anal verge. The rate of pelvic sepsis was 17.1% (80/469) and was similar between drain and no drain: 16.1% versus 18.0% (P = 0.58). There was no difference of surgical morbidity (18.7% vs 25.3%; P = 0.83), rate of reoperation (16.6% vs 21.0%; P = 0.22), length of hospital stay (12.2 vs 12.2; P = 0.99) and rate of stoma closure (80.1% vs 77.3%; P = 0.53) between groups. Absence of colonic pouch was the only independent factor of pelvic sepsis (odds ratio = 1.757; 95% confidence interval 1.078-2.864; P = 0.024).
CONCLUSIONS: This randomized trial suggests that the use of a pelvic drain after rectal excision for rectal cancer did not confer any benefit to the patient.