Laparoscopic surgery for colorectal cancer: towards a lower cost surgery?

Laparoscopic surgery for colorectal cancer: towards a lower cost surgery?

Antonio Biondi1, Salomone Di Saverio2, Francesco Basile1, Marco Vacante1

1Department of General Surgery and Medical-Surgical Specialties, University of Catania, Catania, Italy; 2Cambridge Colorectal Unit, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Cambridge, UK

Correspondence to: Antonio Biondi, Full Professor. Department of General Surgery and Medical-Surgical Specialties, University of Catania Italy Vittorio Emanuele Hospital, Via Plebiscito 628, Catania 95124, Italy. Email:

Provenance: This is an invited article commissioned by the Editor-in-Chief Minhua Zheng (Department of General Surgery, Ruijin Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai Minimal Invasive Surgery Center, Shanghai, China).

Comment on: Hayashi H, Ozaki N, Ogawa K, et al. Assessing the economic advantage of laparoscopic vs. open approaches for colorectal cancer by a propensity score matching analysis. Surg Today 2018;48:439-48.

Received: 14 June 2018; Accepted: 28 June 2018; Published: 06 July 2018.

doi: 10.21037/ales.2018.06.05

Populations are aging worldwide and the prevalence and economic burden of patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) is supposed to increase in the future (1). Frequently older people show comorbidities, for example cardiac and lung diseases, which rise operative risk, and the risk of postoperative morbidities, thus leading to an increase in hospital length of stay and costs (2). Many studies highlighted the importance of laparoscopic surgery for the treatment of CRC, with a growing interest in the analysis of cost-effectiveness for this procedure in comparison with open surgery. Vara-Thorbeck et al carried out the first study on laparoscopic surgery in the elderly with CRC more than 20 years ago (3). The authors demonstrated that no mortality and very low morbidity occurred despite the patients’ older age, debilitated conditions, and comorbidities. These results were supported by more recent studies that did not show any difference compared with open surgery as regards morbidity or length of hospitalization (4-7). Moreover, a meta-analysis carried out on elderly patients showed that laparoscopic procedures reduced the number of surgical site infections, and postoperative cardiac and respiratory complications (8). Kennedy et al. reviewed the database of the American College of Surgeon’s National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP) and demonstrated that laparoscopy decreased length of hospitalization and risk of postoperative complications in a cohort of 8,660 elderly patients after surgery for CRC (9). There is growing evidence that laparoscopic colorectal surgery could be effective and safe also for very old patients (10). A recent systematic review and meta-analysis by Li et al. underlined the efficacy of laparoscopic surgery performed on octogenarians in reducing the length of hospital stay, intraoperative bleeding, time to return to normal bowel function, and incidence of postoperative morbidities such as pneumonia, wound infection, and postoperative ileus (11). As regards the cost-effectiveness of laparoscopic procedures, an interesting study conducted in Sweden on 1,044 rectal cancer patients showed that laparoscopy had higher costs compared to open surgery, at 28 days ($1,910) and 3 years ($3,854) after surgery. However, there were no significant differences between the laparoscopic and open approach in long-term costs to society ($684) (12). Similar results were showed in a systematic review carried out by Murray et al. (13). The authors reported a quicker recovery and no significant difference in mortality or disease-free survival up to 3 years for laparoscopic surgery. Anyway, operative times are longer for laparoscopic approach and a significant rate of conversions from laparoscopic to open surgery was observed. The costs for laparoscopic surgery seemed to be higher to the health service compared to open surgery, with an expected additional cost of around pound 300 per patient. However, these costs are balanced by short term benefits and long-term outcomes as regards survival and cure rates up to 3 years. Another systematic review by Jensen et al. confirmed that even if laparoscopic resection for CRC is associated with higher equipment costs, it is cost-effective and provides equivalent quality of life compared to open surgery. The only condition that influence the cost-effectiveness of laparoscopy is postoperative hernia rates (14). In their article, Hayashi et al. used a propensity score matching analysis to assess the surgical outcomes and economic benefits of laparoscopic versus open surgery for CRC (15). The results of this study are consistent with previous reports and pointed out that patients with CRC after laparoscopic resection showed lower morbidity and a reduced postoperative length of stay compared to open surgery. The use of laparoscopic procedures generated a higher mean surgical expense but at the same time reduced the non-surgical costs. Noteworthy, the authors observed a decrease in average cost of laparoscopic procedures of around 130,000 yen in comparison with open surgery, even if this difference was statistically not significant. In conclusion, the majority of studies support the advantages of laparoscopic resection for CRC as a minimally invasive technique with low rate of complications and clear economic benefits. Further studies are still needed to confirm these findings, but it seems reasonable to think that in the future the laparoscopic approach should confirm its role as a routine and cost-effective procedure for the treatment of CRC.




Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


  1. Torre LA, Bray F, Siegel RL, et al. Global cancer statistics, 2012. CA Cancer J Clin 2015;65:87-108. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  2. De Marco MF, Janssen-Heijnen ML, van der Heijden LH, et al. Comorbidity and colorectal cancer according to subsite and stage a population-based study. Eur J Cancer 2000;36:95-9. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  3. Vara-Thorbeck C, Garcia-Caballero M, Salvi M, et al. Indications and advantages of laparoscopy-assisted colon resection for carcinoma in elderly patients. Surg Laparosc Endosc 1994;4:110-8. [PubMed]
  4. Hinoi T, Kawaguchi Y, Hattori M, et al. Laparoscopic versus open surgery for colorectal cancer in elderly patients: a multicenter matched case-control study. Ann Surg Oncol 2015;22:2040-50. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  5. Kannan U, Reddy VS, Mukerji AN, et al. Laparoscopic vs open partial colectomy in elderly patients: Insights from the American College of Surgeons - National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database. World J Gastroenterol 2015;21:12843-50. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  6. Biondi A, Grosso G, Mistretta A, et al. Laparoscopic-assisted versus open surgery for colorectal cancer: short- and long-term outcomes comparison. J Laparoendosc Adv Surg Tech A 2013;23:1-7. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  7. Birindelli A, Segalini E, Kwan S, et al. Challenging emergency laparoscopic right colectomy for completely obstructing caecal carcinoma - a video vignette. Colorectal Dis 2017;19:504-6. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  8. Huang C, Huang R, Jiang T, et al. Laparoscopic and open resection for colorectal cancer: An evaluation of cellular immunity. BMC Gastroenterol 2010;10:127. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  9. Kennedy GD, Heise C, Rajamanickam V, et al. Laparoscopy decreases postoperative complication rates after abdominal colectomy: results from the national surgical quality improvement program. Ann Surg 2009;249:596-601. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  10. Biondi A, Vacante M, Ambrosino I, et al. Role of surgery for colorectal cancer in the elderly. World J Gastrointest Surg 2016;8:606-13. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  11. Li Y, Wang S, Gao S, et al. Laparoscopic colorectal resection versus open colorectal resection in octogenarians: a systematic review and meta-analysis of safety and efficacy. Tech Coloproctol 2016;20:153-62. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  12. Gehrman J, Björholt I, Angenete E, et al. Health economic analysis of costs of laparoscopic and open surgery for rectal cancer within a randomized trial (COLOR II). Surg Endosc 2017;31:1225-34. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  13. Murray A, Lourenco T, de Verteuil R, et al. Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of laparoscopic surgery for colorectal cancer: systematic reviews and economic evaluation. Health Technol Assess 2006;10:1-141. iii-iv. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  14. Jensen CC, Prasad LM, Abcarian H. Cost-effectiveness of laparoscopic vs open resection for colon and rectal cancer. Dis Colon Rectum 2012;55:1017-23. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  15. Hayashi H, Ozaki N, Ogawa K, et al. Assessing the economic advantage of laparoscopic vs. open approaches for colorectal cancer by a propensity score matching analysis. Surg Today 2018;48:439-48. [Crossref] [PubMed]
doi: 10.21037/ales.2018.06.05
Cite this article as: Biondi A, Di Saverio S, Basile F, Vacante M. Laparoscopic surgery for colorectal cancer: towards a lower cost surgery? Ann Laparosc Endosc Surg 2018;3:57.