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UCI study: Certain types of surgery have better outcomes when performed by a colorectal specialist

Two common abdominal procedures had fewer complications and mortalities when done by surgeon with specialty training

March 29, 2024
uci health colorectal surgeon ninh nguyen in a hospital area wearing a white coat and blue shirt
Dr. Ninh T. Nguyen is a board-certified UCI Health surgeon who
specializes in minimally invasive gastroesophageal surgery and
bariatric surgery.

Orange, Calif. — UCI Health clinicians have found that common types of colon surgery have better outcomes when performed by colorectal surgery specialists compared with general surgeons, according to a study published this month in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

The research team from the UCI Department of Surgery and members of the UCI Health Digestive Health Institute examined outcomes data for two common procedures done by general or colorectal surgeons: elective and urgent colectomies, a procedure in which part or all of the colon is removed; and elective proctectomies, a procedure to remove all or part of the rectum.

The team’s analysis of a national academic clinical database found that elective colectomies and elective proctectomies were associated with lower rates of complications and mortality when performed by a colorectal specialist as compared to a general surgeon.

A colectomy is typically done to treat inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and other diseases of the colon. A proctectomy is a common surgery to treat rectal cancer.

The study’s authors concluded that the surgeon’s specialty is an important factor in clinical outcomes due to the additional training such surgeons receive and their experience in management of these complex conditions.

"Although this study only examined the rates of complications and risk of death from these operations, the benefits of these procedures being performed by a colorectal specialist might extend to include improved cancer survival,” says Dr. Ninh T. Nguyen, a surgeon at UCI Health and the study’s senior author.

“A colorectal surgeon may have more experience in performing certain techniques that can reduce local cancer recurrence.”

The authors recommend that complex colorectal operations be referred to a colorectal specialist and hospitals without a colorectal surgeon on staff should consider making such recruitment a priority.

A digestive health leader

The digestive health specialists at UCI Health are leaders in the treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) conditions, including disorders of the esophagus, stomach, gall bladder, liver, pancreas, colon and rectum. Our surgeons are also experts and pioneers in minimally invasive surgical approaches for certain conditions, including gastroesophageal reflux disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

As physicians at Orange County’s only academic medical center, our doctors are actively involved in clinical research trials. This means our patients have access to leading-edge therapies and technologies well before they are available elsewhere. It also means that as teachers of Orange County's future physicians, they must be at the leading edge of medical science and innovation.

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About UCI Health

UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine, and the only academic health system based in Orange County. UCI Health is comprised of its main campus, UCI Medical Center, a 459-bed, acute care hospital in in Orange, Calif., four hospitals and affiliated physicians of the UCI Health Community Network in Orange and Los Angeles counties and ambulatory care centers across the region. Listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 23 consecutive years, UCI Medical Center provides tertiary and quaternary care and is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centerhigh-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma centergold level 1 geriatric emergency department and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.