Minimally invasive versus open oesophagectomy for patients with oesophageal cancer: a multicentre, open-label, randomised controlled trial

Lancet. 2012 May 19;379(9829):1887-92. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60516-9. Epub 2012 May 1.


Background: Surgical resection is regarded as the only curative option for resectable oesophageal cancer, but pulmonary complications occurring in more than half of patients after open oesophagectomy are a great concern. We assessed whether minimally invasive oesophagectomy reduces morbidity compared with open oesophagectomy.

Methods: We did a multicentre, open-label, randomised controlled trial at five study centres in three countries between June 1, 2009, and March 31, 2011. Patients aged 18-75 years with resectable cancer of the oesophagus or gastro-oesophageal junction were randomly assigned via a computer-generated randomisation sequence to receive either open transthoracic or minimally invasive transthoracic oesophagectomy. Randomisation was stratified by centre. Patients, and investigators undertaking interventions, assessing outcomes, and analysing data, were not masked to group assignment. The primary outcome was pulmonary infection within the first 2 weeks after surgery and during the whole stay in hospital. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with the Netherlands Trial Register, NTR TC 2452.

Findings: We randomly assigned 56 patients to the open oesophagectomy group and 59 to the minimally invasive oesophagectomy group. 16 (29%) patients in the open oesophagectomy group had pulmonary infection in the first 2 weeks compared with five (9%) in the minimally invasive group (relative risk [RR] 0·30, 95% CI 0·12-0·76; p=0·005). 19 (34%) patients in the open oesophagectomy group had pulmonary infection in-hospital compared with seven (12%) in the minimally invasive group (0·35, 0·16-0·78; p=0·005). For in-hospital mortality, one patient in the open oesophagectomy group died from anastomotic leakage and two in the minimally invasive group from aspiration and mediastinitis after anastomotic leakage.

Interpretation: These findings provide evidence for the short-term benefits of minimally invasive oesophagectomy for patients with resectable oesophageal cancer.

Funding: Digestive Surgery Foundation of the Unit of Digestive Surgery of the VU University Medical Centre.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Esophagectomy / methods*
  • Esophagogastric Junction / surgery*
  • Esophagoscopy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Lung Diseases / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / etiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult