Performing a right hemicolectomy (RH) is a core technical competency for general surgical trainees. There is a concern that anastomotic leaks occur more frequently when patients are operated on by trainees rather than by surgeons. This study aims to analyse the quality of care outcomes after RH, stratified by the experience level of the operator.
Patients were retrospectively recruited from the Bi-National Colorectal Cancer Audit (BCCA) Registry, from 2007 to 2018. All patients who underwent a RH for colorectal cancer were eligible. The primary outcome measure was anastomotic leak rate.
A total of 6548 eligible right hemicolectomies were identified, with 74% being performed by consultants, 12% by fellows, and 14% by surgical trainees. The overall incidence of an anastomotic leak was 2.1%, with the highest rate of 3.7% noted among supervised registrars. Positive resection margin rate was the highest among unsupervised trainees at 10.5%, as compared with 4.3% among consultants. Anastomotic leak, anastomotic bleeding, prolonged ileus, and pneumonia occurred significantly less frequently with consultant surgeons, as compared with trainees. Independent risk factors for anastomotic leak were urgent surgery, extended right hemicolectomy, conversion to open surgery, and a lower level of operator seniority. Two independent risk factors were identified for inpatient mortality-a high ASA score (III and above) and urgent surgery.
RH is a common operative procedure in general surgical training. Data from this study may assist with the structuring of surgical training programmes, aimed at maximising both patient safety and trainee professional development and education.