Background: The introduction of circular staplers into colorectal surgery has revolutionized anastomotic techniques stretching the limits of sphincter preservation. Data on the double-stapling technique (DST) has been widely published in the West where the incidence of colorectal cancer is high. However studies using this technique and their results, in the Indian scenario, as well as the rest of Asia, have been few and far between. Aim: To evaluate the feasibility of the DST in Indian patients with low rectal cancers and assess its impact on anastomotic leak rates, covering colostomy rates, level of resection and morbidity in patients undergoing low anterior resection (LAR). Methods: A comparative analysis was performed between retrospectively acquired data on 78 patients (mean age 53.2 ± 13.5 years) undergoing LAR with the single-stapling technique (SST) (between January 1999 and December 2001) and prospective data acquired on 138 LARs (mean age 50.3 ± 13.9 years) performed using the DST (between January 2003 - December 2005). Results: A total of 77 out of 78 patients in the SST group had Astler Coller B and C disease while the number was 132/138 in the DST group. The mean distance of the tumor from anal verge was 7.6 cm (2.5-15 cm) and 8.0 cm (4-15 cm) in the DST and SST groups, respectively. In the DST group, there were 5 (3.6%) anastomotic failures and 62 (45%) covering stomas compared to 7 (8.9%) anastomotic failures and 51 (65.4%) covering stomas in the SST group. The anastomotic leak rate, though objectively lower in the DST group, did not attain statistical significance (p = 0.12). Covering stoma rates were significantly lower in DST group (p = 0.006). There was 1 death in the DST group due to cardiac causes (unrelated to the anastomosis) and no mortality in the SST group. The LAR and abdominoperineal resection (APR) rates were 40% and 60%, respectively, during 1999-2001. In 2005, these rates were 55% and 45%, respectively. Conclusion: This study, perhaps the first from India, demonstrates the feasibility of the DST in a country where the incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing. Since the age at presentation is at least a decade younger than the Western world, consideration of sphincter preservation assumes greater significance. The observed improvement of surgical outcomes with DST needs further studies to significantly prove these findings in a population where the tumors at presentation are predominantly Astler Coller Stage B and C.
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