Background: The main aim of this study was to compare short-term results and long-term outcomes of patients undergoing laparoscopic versus open left colonic resection. Methods: Between February 2000 and December 2004, all adult patients undergoing elective left colonic resection were assessed for eligibility to the study. The protocol for postoperative care was the same in both groups. Cost-benefit analysis was based on hospital costs. Quality of life, long-term morbidity and 5-year survival were also evaluated. Results: Some 268 patients undergoing left colonic resection were assigned randomly to the laparoscopic (n = 134) or open (n = 134) approach. The short-term morbidity rate was 20-1 per cent in the open group and 11-9 per cent in the laparoscopic group (P = 0.094). Hospital stay was longer in the open group (8-7 versus 7-0 days for the laparoscopic approach; P = 0-002). Cost-benefit analysis showed an additional cost of €66 per patient randomly allocated to the laparoscopic group. Quality of life was significantly improved in the laparoscopic group 6 months after surgery, but no difference was found subsequently. The long-term morbidity rate was 11.9 per cent in the open group and 7-5 per cent in the laparoscopic group (P = 0.413). The 5-year survival rate of patients with cancer was 66 and 72 per cent for open and laparoscopic groups respectively (P = 0.321). Conclusion: Laparoscopic left colonic resection resulted in an earlier recovery after surgery. As cost-benefit analysis and long-term follow-up showed similar results, the laparoscopic approach should be preferred to open surgery. Registration number: NCT00894725 (http://clinicaltrials.gov).
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