Extended transthoracic resection compared with limited transhiatal resection for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus

N Engl J Med. 2002 Nov 21;347(21):1662-9. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa022343.


Background: Controversy exists about the best surgical treatment for esophageal carcinoma.

Methods: We randomly assigned 220 patients with adenocarcinoma of the mid-to-distal esophagus or adenocarcinoma of the gastric cardia involving the distal esophagus either to transhiatal esophagectomy or to transthoracic esophagectomy with extended en bloc lymphadenectomy. Principal end points were overall survival and disease-free survival. Early morbidity and mortality, the number of quality-adjusted life-years gained, and cost effectiveness were also determined.

Results: A total of 106 patients were assigned to undergo transhiatal esophagectomy, and 114 to undergo transthoracic esophagectomy. Demographic characteristics and characteristics of the tumor were similar in the two groups. Perioperative morbidity was higher after transthoracic esophagectomy, but there was no significant difference in in-hospital mortality (P=0.45). After a median follow-up of 4.7 years, 142 patients had died--74 (70 percent) after transhiatal resection and 68 (60 percent) after transthoracic resection (P=0.12). Although the difference in survival was not statistically significant, there was a trend toward a survival benefit with the extended approach at five years: disease-free survival was 27 percent in the transhiatal-esophagectomy group, as compared with 39 percent in the transthoracic-esophagectomy group (95 percent confidence interval for the difference, -1 to 24 percent [the negative value indicates better survival with transhiatal resection]), whereas overall survival was 29 percent as compared with 39 percent (95 percent confidence interval for the difference, -3 to 23 percent).

Conclusions: Transhiatal esophagectomy was associated with lower morbidity than transthoracic esophagectomy with extended en bloc lymphadenectomy. Although median overall, disease-free, and quality-adjusted survival did not differ statistically between the groups, there was a trend toward improved long-term survival at five years with the extended transthoracic approach.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Esophagectomy / economics
  • Esophagectomy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Survival Analysis