Objectives: There is a resurgence of interest in lung-sparing extirpative surgery for malignant pleural mesothelioma with recent reports of better survival and fewer adverse consequences than with extrapleural pneumonectomy. However, these operations are not well-characterized and to offer evidence-based clinical recommendations and to plan future trials a summary of what is already known is required.
Design: A formal literature search was performed and all recovered titles were sequentially sifted by title, abstract and full-text reading according to prespecified criteria. Papers were selected if they contained data relevant to the area of enquiry. Quantitative synthesis and textual analysis, appropriate to the material, were performed.
Setting: Follow-up studies of patients undergoing surgery for malignant pleural mesothelioma in specialist thoracic or cardiothoracic units.
Participants: Among the operated patients described in these papers, a total of 1270 patients had undergone lung-sparing surgery for mesothelioma.
Results: There were no randomized trials or other forms of controlled studies. From 464 titles, 26 papers contained sufficient data on 1270 patients to be included in the systematic review. Operative descriptions for all series were extracted and tabulated and variation was found in the nature of surgery within and between series, and the degree of detail with which it was described. There was more operative detail in recent papers. All available numerical data were extracted, tabulated and summarized using quantitative methods. The average survival at 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years was 51%, 26%, 16%, 11% and 9%, respectively. There were no data on patients' performance status, symptomatic change, or other patient reported outcomes.
Conclusions: In the absence of any form of control data, no conclusions can be drawn concerning survival differences or symptomatic benefits attributable to surgery. As mesothelioma surgery is restricted to a selected minority of patients who often have multiple therapies, future research will require controlled studies with explicit definitions of the clinical and surgical intent.