Handsewn or stapled esophagogastric anastomoses after esophagectomy for cancer: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
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Gastric transposition with esophagogastric anastomosis is a common method of reconstruction after esophagectomy for cancer. The anastomosis can be fashioned using a handsewn or stapled technique. The choice of anastomotic technique is often debated but there is little evidence to support the use of one method over the other. We performed a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to determine the effect of esophagogastric anastomotic method (handsewn or circular stapled) on patient outcomes. Medline and manual searches were done (completed independently and in duplicate) to identify all published RCTs that addressed the issue of handsewn or stapled esophagogastric anastomosis after esophagectomy for cancer. The selection process was inclusive; no trials were excluded. Trial validity assessment was done and a trial quality score was assigned. Major outcomes for quantitative data synthesis included operative mortality, anastomotic leaks, anastomotic strictures, cardiac morbidity, and pulmonary morbidity. A random-effects model was used and relative risk was the principal measure of effect. Systematic qualitative review was used for other outcomes such as duration of operation and time to complete the anastomosis. Data on cancer survival were not available in the RCTs. Five RCTs were selected with quality scores ranging from 2 to 3 (5-point Jadad scale). Selection and validity agreement was strong. Relative risk (95% confidence interval, CI; P-value), expressed as handsewn vs. stapled (treatment vs. control), was 0.45 (0.20, 1.00; P=0.05) for operative mortality, 0.79 (0.44, 1.42; P=0.43) for anastomotic leaks, 0.60 (0.27, 1.33; P=0.21) for anastomotic strictures, 0.99 (0.55, 1.77; P=0.97) for cardiac morbidity, and 0.93 (0.63, 1.37; P=0.72) for pulmonary morbidity. Data synthesized from existing RCTs show that handsewn and circular stapled esophagogastric anastomotic techniques give similar results for anastomotic outcomes, such as leaks and strictures. The stapled anastomotic method appears to increase operative mortality (P=0.05). Although it is difficult to explain this finding, it should not be dismissed. Several hypotheses are discussed.
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