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Mauro, A.; Scalvini, D.; Borgetto, S.; Fugazzola, P.; Mazza, S.; Perretti, I.; Gallotti, A.; Pagani, A.; Ansaloni, L.; Anderloni, A. Multidisciplinary Approach for Acute Colonic Obstruction Endoscopic Management. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 21 April 2024).
Mauro A, Scalvini D, Borgetto S, Fugazzola P, Mazza S, Perretti I, et al. Multidisciplinary Approach for Acute Colonic Obstruction Endoscopic Management. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 21, 2024.
Mauro, Aurelio, Davide Scalvini, Sabrina Borgetto, Paola Fugazzola, Stefano Mazza, Ilaria Perretti, Anna Gallotti, Anna Pagani, Luca Ansaloni, Andrea Anderloni. "Multidisciplinary Approach for Acute Colonic Obstruction Endoscopic Management" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 21, 2024).
Mauro, A., Scalvini, D., Borgetto, S., Fugazzola, P., Mazza, S., Perretti, I., Gallotti, A., Pagani, A., Ansaloni, L., & Anderloni, A. (2024, February 19). Multidisciplinary Approach for Acute Colonic Obstruction Endoscopic Management. In Encyclopedia.
Mauro, Aurelio, et al. "Multidisciplinary Approach for Acute Colonic Obstruction Endoscopic Management." Encyclopedia. Web. 19 February, 2024.
Multidisciplinary Approach for Acute Colonic Obstruction Endoscopic Management

Acute colonic obstruction is one of the most common manifestations of locally advanced colorectal cancer. Endoscopic stenting has become by far the minimally invasive treatment of choice for malignant colonic obstruction especially in the palliative setting. 

acute colonic obstruction colorectal cancer endoscopic stent bridge to surgery antiangiogenic agents self-expandable metal stent

1. Introduction

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most frequently diagnosed malignancy in the world and the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality [1]. About 10–40% of colorectal cancer patients have bowel obstruction at the time of diagnosis, particularly on the left side [2], and large bowel obstruction (LBO) is a common condition that accounts for about 24% of admissions for acute mechanical bowel obstruction [3]. Acute colonic obstruction requires urgent management in order to avoid further complications such as perforation or ischemia. In the past, urgent surgery with colonic resection and/or stoma formation was the only available treatment. Endoscopic decompression with the application of self-expandable metal stents (SEMS) within the stricture has been proposed in the last decades as a less invasive option and has become the treatment of choice for patients who need palliative treatment [4].
The surgeon is usually the first specialist to evaluate patients with acute colonic obstruction in the emergency department; the consultation with the endoscopist aims to share the indication of endoscopic stenting, especially for resectable patients for whom there are still no clear indications for the bridge-to-surgery stenting [5]. When evaluating the patient for colonic stenting, the on-call endoscopist usually performs a virtual urgent multidisciplinary consultation with the main figures involved in the management of the patient. Radiological consultation is then essential before endoscopic stenting in order to confirm the malignant etiology of the acute obstruction, to better define the colonic anatomy and to identify urgent criteria for the timing of endoscopic decompression. Lastly, acute colonic obstruction may develop in patients with a known colon cancer under active chemotherapy treatment. Antiangiogenic therapy (e.g., bevacizumab) has been associated with an increased risk of perforation in patients treated with colonic stenting [6]. However, evidence is lacking and based on retrospective studies. Thus, multidisciplinary evaluation with an oncologist and surgeon is crucial in order to identify the correct management strategy and to discuss the risks and benefits of the endoscopic procedure.
Endoscopic colonic stenting is an interventional procedure that requires specific endoscopic skills and experience in the interpretation of intraprocedural radiological frames [7]. The placement of a colonic stent is usually easy in the case of short and linear strictures, whereas it could become particularly challenging in the case of difficult anatomic locations, including lesions close to the anal verge, in the right colon or colonic flexures.
Acute LBO remains a surgical urgency and initial evaluation should be performed by the general surgeon. Preliminary surgical evaluation is aimed at confirming the diagnosis of malignant etiology, excluding other benign causes of LBO that usually do not require endoscopic management except for specific cases (e.g., endoscopic decompression for sigmoid volvulus). Surgical consultation is also essential for the interpretation of CT scan images in order to exclude the presence of abdominal complications that require urgent surgical therapy such as bowel perforation and/or ischemia.
Once a diagnosis of malignant LBO is confirmed, it is essential for the surgeon and endoscopist to collaboratively determine the indication for endoscopic stenting. Endoscopic treatment is sometimes contraindicated when there are signs of colonic ischemia or perforation and therefore emergency surgery (ES) is the only possible treatment [8]. ES contemplates the emergency resection of the primary lesion with an immediate colorectal anastomosis (possibly associated with a diverting loop ileostomy) or without a prompt recanalization and the creation of a colostomy (“Hartmann’s procedure”). When contraindications to stenting are excluded, it is important to evaluate the clinical context of the patient. Patients unsuitable for surgery due to advanced disease (e.g., metastatic CRC) or for the presence of multiple comorbidities should be referred for endoscopic palliative stenting. When the patient has a resectable CRC, it is possible to perform a two-step approach consisting of the endoscopic placement of a SEMS to resolve the obstruction and in the elective surgical resection a few weeks after (stent as a bridge to surgery).
Acute colonic obstruction may also be caused by a non-primary colonic tumor such as pelvic tumors, advanced gastric or other metastatic cancers that cause extrinsic compression. Usually, patients with extrinsic obstruction have milder symptoms than patients with strictures caused by primary colonic cancer [5]. In this subgroup of patients, the aim of the treatment is usually palliative and endoscopic stenting, which demonstrates feasibility but with lower rate of clinical success [9]. Surgical treatment should be evaluated according to the performance status of the patients and to the resectability of the primary neoplasia.

2. Palliative Colonic Stenting

In patients with LBO due to colorectal cancer and advanced/metastatic disease that are not eligible for curative treatment, surgical or non-surgical palliation should be considered. Resection, bypass, and colostomy are the available surgical options, but the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ESGE) Guideline [10] strongly recommends colonic stenting as the preferred treatment for the palliation of malignant colonic obstruction. Some studies comparing colonic stenting and ES for palliation [11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18] showed a that technical success of stent placement ranged from 88% to 100%, while the initial clinical relief of obstruction was significantly higher after palliative surgery compared to colonic stenting [12]. Conflicting results have been reported regarding short-term mortality and overall morbidity [11][12][13][14][15], but colonic stenting was associated with a shorter length of stay, lower costs, a lower intensive care unit admission rate and a shorter time to the initiation of chemotherapy [11][12][13][14][15][17][18]. Furthermore, patients treated with endoscopic stenting had better quality of life if compared to patients treated with palliative surgery until 12 months after the procedure [18].
However, some observational studies [9][19][20] showed lower technical success and an increased complication rate for colonic stenting in patients with peritoneal metastases, because the main limitations to the success of bowel stenting are the presence of multiple sites of obstruction. In this situation, a surgical approach could be considered.

3. SEMS Role as Bridge to Surgery

Placement of an SEMS before elective surgery has the rationale to allow resolution of the obstruction and consequently to obtain patients’ stabilization, improvement of general conditions and nutritional status, accurate staging and definition of a tailored treatment for the patients [21]. As a result, higher quality oncologic resections could be performed using minimally invasive approaches and without the need for permanent stoma [22]. However, some controversies have emerged regarding the oncological safety of SEMS. It has been speculated that the increased interstitial pressure in the neoplastic mass can cause cell dissemination, cell shedding and tumor embolization into lymphatic vessels, as a consequence of a higher rate of recurrence observed in patients with SEMS [23][24]. For these reasons, choosing the most appropriate decompression method can be challenging given the need to balance short- and long-term outcomes. Moreover, guidelines on this topic are inconsistent about the optimal treatment to choose [10][25][26].
Several randomized trials investigated this issue and were summarized in several meta-analyses [21][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35], which compared short- and long-term outcomes of ES and stenting as a bridge to surgery in malignant LBO (Table 1). Considering short-term outcomes, multiple studies demonstrated that post-operative morbidity, such as the rate of anastomotic leak and wound infection, was significantly lower in patients who underwent stenting as a bridge to surgery [27][29][31][32][33][35]; among these, only one study also showed a significantly lower post-operative mortality [33] in this group of patients. Other short-term surgical outcomes that have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life, such as the rate of temporary [27][29][32][33] or permanent [27][29][35] stoma, were significantly lower in the group of stenting as a bridge to surgery with an odds ratio (OR) of 0.39 [33]. Finally, two meta-analyses [32][33] compared the rate of laparoscopic versus open resection in the two groups, finding a significantly higher rate of laparoscopic resection in the endoscopic stenting group. On the other hand, the implantation of an endoscopic stent may increase the length of stay in order to wait for the time for recanalization and optimal timing for surgery [29][32]; however, this hospitalization time is usually exploited for the correct clinical staging, for patients’ stabilization and restarting of enteral nutrition.
Table 1. Short- and long-term outcomes of Emergency Surgery and Stent as Bridge to Surgery (SBTS) in malignant bowel obstruction reported in the most recent meta-analyses. Green color: outcomes in favor of SBTS; red color: outcomes in favor of ES; yellow color: outcomes in which ES and SBTS are not significantly different.
ES, emergency surgery; SBTS, stent as a bridge to surgery; VLS, videolaparoscopy; LOS, length of stay; OS, overall survival; DFS, disease-free survival; RCT, randomized controlled trials; pts, patients; OR, odd ratio.
While short-term outcomes are globally in favor of the bridge-to-surgery approach, less evidence supports this kind of approach for long-term outcomes. Different meta-analyses failed to find any differences between ES and stenting as a bridge to surgery in terms of overall survival [21][28][30][31][32][34][35] or disease-free survival [21][28][30][31][32][34] at three or five years. Moreover, the meta-analysis by Arezzo et al. found a higher local recurrence rate in the stent as a bridge to surgery group that was not even statistically significant (40.5% vs. 26.6%, p = 0.09) [29]. However, several other meta-analyses did not confirm this finding [21][28][30][31][32].
In conclusion, the current available evidence on the role of endoscopic stenting as a bridge to surgery are globally weak. However, short-term outcomes such as the rate of permanent or temporary stoma, which significantly affect patients’ quality of life, are significantly improved with the endoscopic stenting. It is therefore recommended to propose the endoscopic stenting as a first line of treatment in this situation only if the global organization of the Institution (i.e., on-call endoscopist with expertise in radiological procedure availability 24 h a day) and an agreed pathway with surgeons allow this kind of approach. As an alternative, ES remains a valid option for the treatment of resectable patients with acute malignant colonic obstruction.


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