Background: Postoperative assessment of indications for cancer directed surgical procedures frequently differs from preoperative plans. Methods: Specifically defined preoperative indications and postoperative results were followed prospectively over 48 months in a single surgeon academic practice, and relationships to postoperative outcomes evaluated. Results: Operations were performed on 406 patients with a median age of 61 (range: 18-90). Major operations (n = 303, 75%) involved 270 abdominal resections including pancreatectomies (37%), liver resections (23%), gastrectomies (19%), and others (21%). Preoperative curative (70%), diagnostic (38%), palliative (12%), access (9%), and non-cancer related therapy (21%) goals were in part combined in 176 patients (43%). Postoperative assessment differed from preoperative goals in 118 patients (29%). Predominant reasons were proof of benign disease (n = 35), incomplete resection (R1 or R2, n = 23), unresectability by laparoscopy (n = 21) or laparotomy (n = 21), or others (n = 18). Potential preoperative cure or palliation goals were not achieved in 37% or 15% of cases, respectively. Circumstances of changed treatment intent were specific for disease site. Conclusion: Preoperative therapeutic intent frequently differs from postoperative assessments in gastrointestinal cancer, based on shortcomings in diagnosis or therapy. Formulations of precise operative indications are recommended to optimize individual outcomes and avoid unnecessary or ineffective procedures.
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