Surgery is the treatment of choice in selected patients with hepatic colorectal metastases. Despite improvements in preoperative imaging, patients can undergo unnecessary nontherapeutic laparotomy. The aim of this study was to examine trends in nontherapeutic laparotomy rates in patients undergoing planned surgical therapy for hepatic colorectal metastases. Data from 530 operations (461 patients) undergoing potentially curative surgical therapy for colorectal liver metastases between 1994 and 2005 were analyzed. The incidence of nontherapeutic laparotomy was determined and factors associated with nontherapeutic laparotomy were identified. Overall, 49 nontherapeutic laparotomies were performed (9.2%). Higher nontherapeutic laparotomy rates were seen in patients with multiple metastases and tumor size >5 cm (both P < 0.05). Preoperative positron emission tomography (PET) imaging was associated with lower risk of nontherapeutic laparotomy [5.6% versus 12.4%, P = 0.009, odds ratio (OR) = 0.42]. At laparotomy, extrahepatic findings were the reason for nontherapeutic laparotomy in 44.9% of cases. The nontherapeutic laparotomy rate significantly decreased over time (14.9% for 1994-1997 versus 9.6% for 1998-2001 versus 4.7% for 2002-2005; P = 0.003). While patients in each time period were similar with regard to tumor specific factors, utilization of PET imaging (P < 0.001) as well as resection plus ablation (P = 0.004) increased over time. We conclude that prevalence of nontherapeutic laparotomy for patients undergoing surgical exploration for hepatic colorectal metastases has decreased significantly in recent years to less than 5%. The reasons for this trend are probably multifactorial and may include improved preoperative assessment, such as PET imaging, as well as salvage surgical options.
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