Background: Thirty percent of patients with lung cancer have airway obstruction requiring palliation. In addition, endoscopic resection may be considered before surgery or induction therapy to improve quality of life and functional status, and to allow better staging. It may also help to prevent infectious complications during induction chemotherapy.
Methods: Since 1993, 351 Nd:YAG laser resections were performed in 273 patients with lung cancer. The tumor involved the trachea in 36 patients, the carina in 28, the main bronchi in 154, the bronchus intermedius in 29, and the distal airway in 26. One hundred eight stents were placed. After the endoscopic treatment 36 patients were operated on (23 after induction chemotherapy) with 8 pneumonectomies (1 tracheal sleeve) and 28 lobectomies (15 bronchial sleeves). Spirometry, arterial blood gas analysis, and quality of life and performance status were recorded before and after laser treatment and after induction chemotherapy. Complications during chemotherapy, surgical morbidity and mortality, and survival were also recorded.
Results: Major complications during laser resection were bleeding (7 patients) and hypoxia (5 patients). Three patients died within 24 hours after the procedure. No complications were observed in the group of patients who subsequently underwent induction chemotherapy or surgery. One patient developed pneumonia during induction chemotherapy. The airway caliber improved in 89% of patients undergoing palliation only. In the group of patients undergoing induction chemotherapy and/or surgery, the performance status, quality of life, and functional measurements significantly improved after endoscopic treatment (FEV1 from 1.4 +/- 0.5 L/s to 2.2 +/- 0.6 L/s). Three-year survival after induction chemotherapy and surgery, was 52%. Median survival after palliation alone was 12.1 months.
Conclusions: Nd:YAG laser resection is a safe and effective means of relieving airway obstruction. Before induction chemotherapy or surgery preliminary endoscopic palliation helps to improve evaluation and staging and contributes to reducing morbidity during chemotherapy without increasing surgical complications.