Background: Extended resection of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) involving the superior vena cava (SVC) system is infrequently performed and oncologic benefits are still uncertain.
Methods: From 1983 to 1996, 25 patients underwent resection of the SVC system for T4, NSCLC.
Results: A total of 12 pneumonectomies (48%), ten lobectomies (40%), and three wedge resections (12%) were performed. Seven patients had complete resection of the SVC with graft interposition, 12 patients underwent tangential resection of the SVC, and 1 patient had a pericardial patch; 5 patients underwent resection of right innominate and subclavian veins without vessel reconstruction. The lymph node status was N0 in 8 patients (32%), N1 in 3 (12%) and N2 in 14 patients (56%). Five patients (20%) underwent incomplete resection. Nine patients (36%) developed postoperative complications (36%) that were fatal in 3 patients (12%). At the completion of the study, 10 patients were still alive. The median survival was 11.5 months and the 5-year actuarial survival rate was 29%, with 4 patients alive at 5 years.
Conclusions: The resection of the SVC system for direct involvement by T4, NSCLC can be performed in selected patients with an acceptable postoperative mortality. Even though no significant prognostic factors were observed, the patients who required a lobectomy with limited lymph node involvement seemed to benefit the most from surgery.