Identification and Adjudication of Adverse Events Following Rectal Cancer Surgery: Observational Case Series in a Region of Ontario, Canada Academic Article uri icon

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  • Background

    For patients undergoing rectal cancer surgery, we evaluated whether suboptimal preoperative surgeon evaluation of resection margins is a latent condition factor-a factor that is common, unrecognized, and may increase the risk of certain adverse events, including local tumour recurrence, positive surgical margin, nontherapeutic surgery, and in-hospital mortality.


    In this observational case series of patients who underwent rectal cancer surgery during 2016 in Local Health Integrated Network 4 region of Ontario (population 1.4 million), chart review and a trigger tool were used to identify patients who experienced the adverse events. An expert panel adjudicated whether each event was preventable or nonpreventable and identified potential contributing factors to adverse events.


    Among 173 patients, 25 (14.5%) had an adverse event and 13 cases (7.5%) were adjudicated as preventable. Rate of surgeon awareness of preoperative margin status was low at 50% and similar among cases with and without an adverse event (p = 0.29). Suboptimal surgeon preoperative evaluation of surgical margins was adjudicated a contributing factor in all 11 preventable local recurrence, positive margin, and nontherapeutic surgery cases. Failure to rescue was judged a contributing factor in the two cases with preventable in-hospital mortality.


    Suboptimal surgeon preoperative evaluation of surgical margins in rectal cancer is likely a latent condition factor. Optimizing margin evaluation may be an efficient quality improvement target.

publication date

  • February 2022