Inclusion criteria: (1) 18 years of age and over; (2) low anterior resection for rectal cancer; (3) postoperative pathological diagnosis of rectal adenocarcinoma; and (4) informed consent signed prior to surgery. Exclusion criteria: (1) recurrent rectal cancer; (2) emergency surgery; (3) preoperative and intraoperative detection of distant organ metastases or extensive implantation metastases in the abdominal cavity; (4) palliative surgery; (5) a postoperative pathology report that showed residual cancer cells at the proximal or distal resection margin; (6) no standard chemotherapy for tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging II or III after surgery; (7) synchronous colorectal carcinoma and other organ tumors; and (8) incomplete case data.

Based on the above criteria, we retrospectively collected data from the medical records of patients who had a low anterior resection for rectal cancer at Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital, from January 2014 to December 2015. A total of 516 from 635 cases were included in this study; in 221 cases, the LCA was preserved intraoperatively, while in the remaining 295 cases, the LCA was not preserved.

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