Lobectomy by video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) versus thoracotomy for lung cancer

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2009 Jul;138(1):11-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2009.03.030.


Background: The optimal surgical technique for lobectomy in lung cancer is not well defined. Proponents of video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) hypothesize that less trauma leads to quicker recovery, whereas those who advocate thoracotomy claim it as an oncologically superior procedure. However, a well-balanced comparison of the two procedures is lacking in the literature.

Methods: All patients who underwent lobectomy for clinical stage 1A lung cancer by computed tomographic and positron emission tomographic scan were identified from a prospective database. Patient characteristics were compared by the Student t test, Pearson chi(2), and Fisher exact test. A propensity score-matched analysis was performed. Survival was assessed by Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional hazards analysis. Complications were assessed by a multivariate logistic regression model evaluating age, sex, comorbidities, pulmonary function, tumor size, nodal status, surgeon, and histologic characteristics.

Results: From May 2002 to August 2007, 398 patients underwent an attempt at VATS lobectomy and 343 underwent thoracotomy. An "intent-to-treat" analysis was performed. There was 1 postoperative death in each group. Survival by Cox model was no different for VATS versus thoracotomy (hazard ratio 0.72; P = .12), whereas age (hazard ratio 1.03; P < .001), larger tumor size (hazard ratio 1.34; P < .001), and higher nodal stage (hazard ratio 1.92; P < .001) were associated with worse survival. Logistic regression demonstrated fewer complications for VATS lobectomy (odds ratio 0.73; P = .06), whereas age (odds ratio 1.04; P < .001) and tumor size (odds ratio 1.2; P < .020) correlated with a greater number of complications. Patients undergoing VATS lobectomy demonstrated a 2-day shorter length of stay than patients undergoing thoracotomy (P < .001). Propensity score-matched analysis supported these findings.

Conclusions: VATS lobectomy and thoracotomy demonstrated similar 5-year survivals. However, VATS lobectomy was associated with fewer complications and shorter length of hospital stay.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / physiopathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy* / adverse effects
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted* / adverse effects
  • Thoracotomy / adverse effects