Objectives: To determine the morbidity, mortality, and feasibility of lung resection in patients with tumors and preoperative FEV1 < 35% predicted.
Design: Retrospective review.
Setting: A 734-bed, tertiary care, academic hospital with a dedicated general thoracic surgery unit performing > 2,000 operations per year.
Patients: One hundred consecutive patients with discrete lung tumors and with preoperative FEV1 < 35% predicted undergoing lung resection between September 1997 and May 2003. Only operations with curative intent were included. Average preoperative predicted FEV1 was 26%. Sixteen percent of the patients were oxygen dependent prior to the operation.
Results: Open and thoracoscopic wedge resections, segmentectomies, lobectomies, and combined lung resections with lung volume reduction were performed. Sixty-six of the lesions were malignant, and 57 were primary lung cancers. Only one patient left the operating room with positive margins. There was one in-hospital or 30-day mortality. Thirty-six percent of the patients had one or more complications. Twenty-two percent of the patients had prolonged air leaks requiring a chest tube for > 7 days. One patient left the hospital ventilator dependent, 3 additional patients required intubation > 48 h, and 11 patients were discharged with a new oxygen requirement. There were four pneumonias, one myocardial infarction, and two reoperations for bleeding. Male gender (p = 0.003), preoperative oxygen dependence (p = 0.03), and pack-year history (p = 0.006) were associated with a higher overall incidence of complications, while age, incision, diabetes, coronary artery disease, duration of smoking cessation, amount of lung resected, size of lesion, and preoperative percentage of predicted FEV1 did not correlate with the overall incidence of complications.
Conclusions: In a large academic center, minimally invasive surgical techniques, intensive pulmonary care, and advanced anesthetic techniques allow for curative lung tumor resections in patients with very low preoperative FEV1 with a very low mortality and very low incidence of ventilator dependence. Other serious complications such as pneumonia, myocardial infarction, and bleeding are uncommon. An extended hospital stay and a high incidence of prolonged air leak should be expected, especially in patients with preoperative FEV1 < or = 20% predicted.