Background: The technique, safety, and oncologic efficacy of video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) lobectomy are controversial. Issues include operative time, lymph node yield, conversion to thoracotomy, resource utilization, recurrence, complications, and survival.
Methods: From January 1995 to December 2001, 179 patients underwent VATS lobectomy for preoperative stage I lung cancer (T1N0, 118 patients; T2N0, 61 patients). Mean age was 64.34 years (range, 38 to 87); 91 were female and 88 were male. Contraindications to VATS lobectomy included any suggestion of hilar, endobronchial, or central lesions. Video-assisted thoracic surgery lobectomy was performed using three ports, partial anatomic hilar dissection, and mediastinal node dissection.
Results: Distribution of lobectomies was as follows: left upper lobe, 50 patients; left lower lobe, 27 patients; right upper lobe, 33 patients; right upper and right middle lobe, 29 patients; right middle lobe, 9 patients; right lower lobe, 30 patients; right middle lobe and right lower lobe, 1 patient. Mean operative time was 75 +/- 6 minutes. Mean lymph node yield was 11 +/- 5 nodes. Pathologic upstaging was noted in 14 of the 179 patients (7.8%). Mean hospitalization was 4.1 days (range, 2 days to 4 months). There were no conversions to thoracotomy and there was 1 death (1 of 179, 0.05%). Complications included air leak in 24 of 179 (13.4%), subcutaneous emphysema in 4 of 179 (2.2%), pneumonia in 10 of 179 (5.6%), wound infection in 5 of 179 (2.8%), respiratory failure in 3 of 179 (1.7%), pulmonary embolism in 2 of 179 (1.1%), and myocardial infarction in 1 of 179 (0.5%). At a mean follow-up of 37 months, local recurrence rate was 0.013 per person per year. Actuarial recurrence-free survival was 88% and 85% at 36 and 60 months respectively.
Conclusions: For carefully selected patients VATS lobectomy for early stage lung cancer is a safe and effective strategy. Long-term follow-up is required to fully evaluate recurrence and survival.