The following article requires a subscription:



(Format: HTML, PDF)

Background: Although National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation as a cancer center is based almost solely on research activities, it is often viewed, by patients and referring providers, as an indication of clinical excellence.

Objective: To compare the short- and long-term outcomes of colon and rectal cancer surgery performed at NCI-designated centers to the outcomes after resection at non-NCI-designated hospitals.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of Survival, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database patients undergoing segmental colectomy (n = 33,969) or proctectomy (n = 8591) for cancer from 1996-2003. Multivariate logistic regression, with and without propensity scores, and matched conditional regression were performed to evaluate the relationship between NCI status and postoperative mortality (in-hospital or 30-day death). The log-rank test, Kaplan-Meier curves, and Cox regression compared survival between hospital types.

Results: We evaluated 33,969 colectomy and 8591 proctectomy patients. Postoperative mortality after colectomy was 6.7% at non-NCI and 3.2% at NCI centers. Mortality after proctectomy was 5.0% and 1.9%, respectively. These differences were significant when adjusted for patient and hospital characteristics. For both colon and rectal cancer patients, long-term mortality was significantly improved after resection at NCI centers (HR 0.84, P < 0.001; HR 0.85, P = 0.02, respectively).

Conclusion: NCI designation is associated with lower risk of postoperative death and improved long-term survival. Possible factors responsible for these benefits include surgeon training, multidisciplinary care, and adherence to treatment guidelines. Studies are underway to elucidate the factors leading to improved patient outcomes.

(C) 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.