Pelvic exenteration for locally advanced and recurrent rectal cancer—how much more?

Yee Chen Lau, Kilian G. M. Brown, Peter Lee


There have been significant advances in the surgical management of locally advanced and recurrent rectal cancer in recent decades. Patient with advanced pelvic tumours involving adjacent organs and neurovascular structures, beyond the traditional mesorectal planes, who would have traditionally been considered irresectable at many centres, now undergo surgery routinely at specialised units. While high rates of morbidity and mortality were reported by the pioneers of pelvic exenteration (PE) in early literature, this is now considered historical data. In 2019, patients who undergo PE for advanced or recurrent rectal cancer can expect reasonable rates of long-term survival (up to 60% at 5 years) and acceptable morbidity and quality of life. This article describes the surgical techniques that have been developed for radical multivisceral pelvic resections and reviews contemporary outcomes.