Patient survival after surgical treatment of rectal cancer: Impact of surgeon and hospital characteristics

David A. Etzioni, Tonia M. Young-Fadok, Robert R. Cima, Nabil Wasif, Robert D. Madoff, James M. Naessens, Elizabeth B. Habermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND Surgeon and hospital factors are associated with the survival of patients treated for rectal cancer. The relative contribution of each of these factors toward determining outcomes is poorly understood. METHODS We used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare database to analyze the outcomes of patients aged 65 years and older undergoing operative treatment for nonmetastatic rectal cancer, diagnosed in the United States between 1998 and 2007. These data were linked to a registry to identify whether the treating surgeon was a board-certified colorectal surgeon versus a noncolorectal surgeon. Hospital volume and hospital certification as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers were also analyzed. The primary outcome of interest was long-term survival. RESULTS Our data source yielded 6432 patients. Initial analysis demonstrated improved long-term survival in patients treated by higher-volume colorectal surgeons, higher-volume hospitals, teaching hospitals, and National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. Based on an iterative approach to modeling the interactions between these various factors, we found a robust effect of surgeon subspecialty status, hospital volume, and NCI designation. Surgeon volume was not distinctly associated with long-term survival. CONCLUSIONS Patients treated for rectal cancer by board-certified colorectal surgeons in centers that are higher volume and/or NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers experience better overall survival. These differences persist after adjustment for a broad range of patient and contextual risk factors, including surgeon volume. Patients and payers can use these results to identify surgeons and hospitals where outcomes are most favorable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2472-2481
Number of pages10
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2014


  • cancer care facilities
  • colon and rectal
  • rectal neoplasms
  • surgery specialty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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