A US Rectal Cancer Consortium Study of Inferior Mesenteric Artery Versus Superior Rectal Artery Ligation: How High Do We Need to Go?

Michael K. Turgeon, Adriana C. Gamboa, Scott E. Regenbogen, Jennifer Holder-Murray, Sherif R.Z. Abdel-Misih, Alexander T. Hawkins, Matthew L. Silviera, Shishir K. Maithel, Glen C. Balch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The optimal level of pedicle ligation during proctectomy for rectal cancer, either at the origin of the inferior mesenteric artery or the superior rectal artery, is still debated. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to determine whether superior rectal artery ligation portends equivalent technical or oncologic outcomes. DESIGN: This was a retrospective analysis of a rectal cancer database (2007-2017). SETTINGS: The study was conducted at 6 tertiary referral centers in the United States (Emory University, University of Michigan, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis). PATIENTS: Patients with primary, nonmetastatic rectal cancer who underwent low anterior resection or abdominoperineal resection were included. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Anastomotic leak, lymph node harvest, locoregional recurrence-free survival, recurrence-free survival, and overall survival were measured. RESULTS: Of 877 patients, 86% (n = 755) received an inferior mesenteric artery ligation, whereas 14% (n = 122) received a superior rectal artery ligation. A total of 12%, 33%, 24%, and 31% were pathologic stage 0, I, II, and III. Median follow-up was 31 months. Superior rectal artery ligation was associated with a similar anastomotic leak rate compared with inferior mesenteric artery ligation (9% vs 8%; p = 1.0). The median number of lymph nodes removed was identical (15 vs 15; p = 0.38). On multivariable analysis accounting for relevant clinicopathologic factors, superior rectal artery ligation was not associated with increased anastomotic leak rate, worse lymph node harvest, or worse locoregional recurrence-free survival, recurrence-free survival, or overall survival (all p values >0.1). LIMITATIONS: This was a retrospective design. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with inferior mesenteric artery ligation, superior rectal artery ligation is not associated with either worse technical or oncologic outcomes. Given the potential risks of inadequate blood flow to the proximal limb of the anastomosis and autonomic nerve injury, we advocate for increased use of superior rectal artery ligation. See Video Abstract at http://links.lww.com/DCR/B646.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1198-1211
Number of pages14
JournalDiseases of the Colon and Rectum
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • Inferior mesenteric artery
  • Ligation
  • Rectal cancer


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