A retrospective analysis to compare the single vs double stapled technique for rectal anastomosis was carried out on patients that underwent radical surgical resection between January 1986 and January 1989 at the Istituto Nazionale Tumori of Milan. In 143 patients anastomotic integrity had been checked both intraoperatively with air insufflation and postoperatively by water soluble contrast enema. A single stapled anastomosis (SST) was performed using the EEA instrument in 94 patients, and in 49 patients a double stapled (DST) using the EEA and TA instruments was performed. The level of the anastomosis was ≤10 cm from the anal margin in 94 patients (54 SST, 40 DST). In 52 patients it was > 10 cm (40 SST, 12 DST) (SST vs DST ns). The presence of anastomotic dehiscence occurred in 29 (20%) patients (17 SST, 12 DST). This was not related either to the anastomotic site or to the suture technique used. The dehiscence was located on the posterior wall in 79% of cases and in 58% the size was less than 1 cm. In 78 % clinical symptoms were evident. There was no difference between SST and DST patients. Further surgery (colostomy) was necessary in six patients (2 SST, 4 DST). Two patients died through complications (1 SST, 1 DST); making an overall mortality rate of 1.0% and 2.0% in each group. There was no difference in infection rate and length of postoperative stay in the two groups. Our data demonstrate that both methods give similar results. The use of DST is theoretically advisable when there is marked discrepancy in the diameter of the rectal stump and proximal bowel to be anastomised or where a short operation is imperative.
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