“Mess-o-stomosis”: a matter of malpractice rather than awkwardness
© Pellino et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Published: 16 September 2013
Postoperative staple line leaks and bleeding are the most common reasons for complications in surgical procedures that involve organ resection . Trans-anal stapling devices are nowadays widely used; however, complications may still affect a considerable rate of patients, especially when staplers are activated by inexperienced surgeons . This potentially leads to catastrophic consequences in frail patients. We herein describe the case of a patient referred to our Unit suffering from a complication due to an inappropriate use of a trans-anal stapling device.
A 67-year-old woman came to our observation with an history of left ovariectomy and hysterectomy performed for a tubo-ovarian abscess with pelvic sepsis in an Obstetrics and Gynaecology Unit. After three weeks, she needed right ovariectomy because of a relapse of the abscess. A lesion to the sigmoid colon occurred during debridement of adhesions. For this reason, surgeons performed a sigmoidal resection and trans-anal colorectal anastomosis with a circular stapler; a colostomy was fashioned in left lower quadrant. The stoma was closed six months later. Few days after colostomy closure, the patient suffered from faecal discharge from the vagina and was referred to our Unit.
Stapling devices to perform digestive anastomoses have gained wide popularity in the last years. They are reported to be time-saving and to make easier procedures otherwise very difficult to perform (i.e. low pelvic anastomoses). This has to be counterbalanced with the need for extensive experience to achieve advantages from the technique and with potential complications of using a stapling device. These include perforation, incomplete cutting of the intestinal ends, postoperative haemorrhage, rectal diverticula, leakage and stenosis of the anastomotic site[2–5]. Antonsen et al.  reported a rate of recto-vaginal fistula as high as 2.2%. In very low anastomoses this could be due to an inadequate retraction of the vagina, but the posterior vaginal wall can slip under the retractor, being caught by the device during firing . Contrastingly, trans-anal stapled anastomoses are often performed by trainees.
In our patient, the complication probably resulted from a combination of several elements: first, surgeons may have not well identified, prepared and retracted the vagina when performing the anastomosis; second, the tissue doughnuts were not inspected after firing. We recommend to follow such easy-to-perform steps; moreover, it could be useful to have a perineal assistant introducing a finger through the vagina while firing in complex cases.
We feel like technology can make almost everyone able to perform complex or advanced procedures more easily; however, if it is not knowledge-driven surgical disaster are very likely to happen. Technical advancements cannot alter a faulty procedure and are not to be intended for a “todos caballeros” policy. Rather, these should be advocated only after careful evaluation of their potential complications, and carried out if one is able to face them properly.
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