Pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer: risk and benefit analysis of pulmonary resection

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2003 Jun;125(6):1321-7. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5223(03)00028-x.


Objective: Pulmonary fibrosis is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and outcome of surgical resection in this setting is unknown.

Methods: We studied 22 patients (24 operations) with pulmonary fibrosis and non-small cell lung cancer treated between 1991 and 2000 (study group) and compared outcome with 951 other patients (964 operations) treated for non-small cell lung cancer over the same period (control patients).

Results: The two groups did not differ significantly in age (68 vs 65 years), smoking history (86% vs 95% smokers), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (2.5 L/min vs 2.3 L/min) or forced vital capacity (3.2 L vs 3.7 L), but patients with pulmonary fibrosis were more likely to be male (72% vs 58%, P <.05). The operative mortality was higher in patients with pulmonary fibrosis than in control patients (17% vs 3.1%, P <.01) and there was a higher procedure-specific mortality in pulmonary fibrosis for pneumonectomy (33% vs 5.1%, P <.01) and lobectomy (12% vs 2.6%, P <.01). Patients with pulmonary fibrosis had a higher incidence of postoperative lung injury, (21% vs 3.7%, P <.01) and a longer mean hospital stay (17 vs 9 days, P <.05). In patients with pulmonary fibrosis, the actuarial 3-year survival was 54%. There were 11 deaths in the study group, 4 postoperatively (all acute respiratory distress syndrome) and 7 late deaths (metastatic disease, n = 2; progressive pulmonary fibrosis, n = 5). Median follow-up (to death or last review) was 13 months (range, 0-120 months). Five patients developed postoperative acute respiratory distress syndrome and in 4 of these patients this proved to be fatal. Postoperative acute respiratory distress syndrome was associated with lower preoperative total lung carbon monoxide diffusion capacity (median, 58% vs 70%, P =.03) and lower preoperative carbon monoxide diffusion capacity corrected for alveolar volume (median, 48% vs 58%, P =.05) and a higher preoperative composite physiological index (median, 44 vs 33, P =.008). None of the preoperative lung function parameters or operative finding were predictors of late death.

Conclusion: Patients with pulmonary fibrosis undergoing pulmonary resection for non-small cell lung cancer have increased postoperative morbidity and mortality, but an important subgroup has a good long-term outcome. Postoperative acute respiratory distress syndrome is associated with low preoperative gas transfer and a high composite physiological index. Resection of non-small cell lung cancer is appropriate in pulmonary fibrosis, provided that the level of functional impairment is carefully factored into patient selection.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Pneumonectomy* / mortality
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / mortality
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / surgery*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / etiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome