Objective: The purpose of this study was to analyze postoperative morbidity and mortality of patients included in a randomized trial comparing total versus subtotal gastrectomy for gastric cancer. Summary Background Data: There is controversy as to whether the optimal surgery for gastric cancer in the distal half of the stomach is subtotal or total gastrectomy. Although only a randomized trial can resolve this oncologic dilemma, the first step is to demonstrate whether the two procedures are penalized by different postoperative morbidity and mortality rates. Methods: A total of 624 patients with cancer in the distal half of the stomach were randomized to subtotal gastrectomy (320) or total gastrectomy (304), both associated with a second-level lymphadenectomy, in a multicenter trial aimed at assessing the oncologic outcome after the two procedures. The end points considered were the occurrence of a postoperative event, complication, or death and length of postoperative stay. Results: Nonfatal complications and death occurred in 9% and 1% of subtotal gastrectomy patients and in 13% and 2% of total gastrectomy patients, respectively. Multivariate analysis of postoperative events showed that splenectomy or resection of adjacent organs was associated with a twofold risk of postoperative complications. Random surgery and extension of surgery influenced the length of stay. The mean length of stay, adjusted for extension of surgery, was 13.8 days for subtotal gastrectomy and 15.4 days for total gastrectomy. Conclusions: Our data show that subtotal and total gastrectomies, with second-level lymphadenectomy, performed as an elective procedure have a similar postoperative complication rate and surgical outcome. A conclusive long-term evaluation of the two operations and an accurate estimate of the oncologic impact of surgery on long-term survival, not penalized by excess surgical risk of one of the two operations, are consequently feasible.
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