LOS ANGELES (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – The use of locoregional tissue flaps in combination with abdominoperineal resection was associated with higher rates of perioperative complications, longer hospital stays, and higher total hospital charges, compared with patients who did not undergo tissue flap reconstruction, an analysis of national data showed.

The findings come at a time when closure of perineal wounds with tissue flaps is an increasingly common approach, especially in academic institutions, Dr. Nicole Lopez said at the annual meeting of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. “The role of selection bias in this [study] is difficult to determine, but I think it’s important that we clarify the utility of this technique before more widespread adoption of the approach,” she said.

According to Dr. Lopez of the department of surgery at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hil, perineal wound complications can occur in 16%-49% of patients undergoing abdominoperineal resection. Contributing factors include noncollapsible dead space, bacterial contamination, wound characteristics, and patient comorbidities.

In an effort to identify national trends in the use of tissue flaps in patients undergoing abdominoperineal resection for rectal or anal cancer, as well as the effect of this approach on perioperative complications, length of stay, and total hospital charges, Dr. Lopez and her associates used the National Inpatient Sample to identify patients aged 18-80 years who were treated between 2000 and 2013. They excluded patients undergoing nonelective procedures or additional pelvic organ resections. Patients who received a tissue flap were compared with those who did not.

Dr. Lopez reported results from 298 patients who received a tissue flap graft and 12,107 who did not. Variables significantly associated with receiving a tissue flap, compared with not receiving one, were being male (73% vs. 66%, respectively; P =. 01), having anal cancer (32% vs. 11%; P less than .0001), being a smoker (34% vs. 23%; P less than .0001), undergoing the procedure in a large hospital (75% vs. 67%; P = .003), and undergoing the procedure in an urban teaching hospital (89% vs. 53%; P less than .0001).

The researchers also found that the number of concurrent tissue flaps performed rose significantly during the study period, from 0.4% in 2000 to 6% in 2013 (P less than .0001). “This was most noted in teaching institutions, compared with nonteaching institutions,” Dr. Lopez said.

Bivariate analysis revealed that, compared with patients who did not receive tissue flaps, those who did had higher rates of postoperative complications (43% vs. 33%, respectively; P less than .0001), a longer hospital stay (mean of 9 vs. 7 days; P less than .001), and higher total hospital charges (mean of $67,200 vs. $42,300; P less than .001). These trends persisted on multivariate analysis. Specifically, patients who received tissue flaps were 4.14 times more likely to have wound complications, had a length of stay that averaged an additional 2.78 days, and had $28,000 more in total hospital charges.

“The extended duration of the study enables evaluation of trends over time, and this is the first study that analyzes the costs associated with these procedures,” Dr. Lopez said. She acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including its retrospective, nonrandomized design and the potential for selection bias. In addition, the National Inpatient Sample “is susceptible to coding errors, a lack of patient-specific oncologic history, and the inability to assess postdischarge occurrences, since this only looks at inpatient stays.”

Dr. Lopez reported having no financial disclosures.