In a new study titled “Geographic Variation in Use of Laparoscopic Colectomy for Colon Cancer” published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have concluded that depending on the geographic location within the country, approximately two-thirds of colon cancer patients will receive laparoscopic colectomy, while in some areas no patients will undergo this procedure.
The majority of patients who suffer from non-metastatic colon cancer will undergo a colectomy, however, laparoscopic colectomy, a minimally invasive procedure to remove part of the colon, results in less pain, shorter hospital stays and a quicker recovery when compared with the common colectomy.
“Although every patient makes his or her own unique decision, most patients offered a laparoscopic colectomy will strongly consider this approach, given the benefits of minimally invasive surgery. Our study shows that these benefits may not be available to patients who live in certain regions,” lead author Bradley N. Reames, M.D., M.S., a surgical resident at the University of Michigan, said in a Comprehensive Cancer Center press release.
The research team used national Medicare claims data from 2009 and 2010 to examine geographic variation in utilization of laparoscopic colectomy for patients with colon cancer.
The results demonstrated that 93,786 patients underwent colon resections at 3,476 hospitals during the study period, of which 32.5% were performed laparoscopically.
Additionally, the necessary equipment to perform laparoscopies was available at the majority of hospitals, which suggests that the infrastructures and equipment do not account for variations observed.
“We believe the key issue is surgeon training or experience. Many surgeons offering this approach complete additional fellowship training in colorectal surgery or seek out opportunities to learn this approach while in practice. Those who don’t are not likely to offer the approach to their patients, or they do so only to a highly specialized group of ideal, straightforward candidates,” senior study author Scott E. Regenbogen, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the University of Michigan explained in the press release.
According to the authors, better patient education and surgeon training are necessary to diminish the geographic variation in laparoscopic colectomy observed in this study.