Leading specialists call for ‘pause for reflection’ on new method of rectal cancer surgery

The Association of Coloproctologists of Great Britain and Ireland (ACPGBI) have urged surgeons to pause the use of a new method of rectal cancer surgery, after Norwegian registry data highlighted concerns about complications and higher than expected rates of recurrence.

Total mesorectal excision means the removal of the rectum. It is the gold standard for removing rectal cancer and can be performed laparoscopically (keyhole) or more recently with a transanal approach (TaTME).

In light of concerns about the new method, Norway has suspended its use. As a result the UK & Ireland’s leading bowel surgeons have called for a pause in its adoption at hospitals not already performing the surgery while data on outcomes is further analysed.

The recommendations are also supported by Timothy Briggs CBE, the National Director of Clinical Improvement for the NHS.

This step shows the vital importance of constant research to establish the safety of new treatment methods for patients. Innovation is crucial to improving patient care, but must be supported by rigorous assessment of safety and potential harms through gold standard research procedure.

The ACPGBI intend that any lifting of the pause will be based on emerging data and will examine its position as further evidence becomes available – hoping to issue renewed guidance within the next 3 years.