The relationship between volume or surgeon specialty and outcome in the surgical treatment of lung cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Thorac Oncol. 2012 Jul;7(7):1170-8. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e318257cc45.


Background: Whether improvement of quality of surgical cancer care can be achieved by centralizing care in high-volume specialized centers is a subject of ongoing debate. We have conducted a meta-analysis of the literature on the effect of procedural volume or surgeon specialty on outcome of lung resections for cancer.

Methods: A systematic search of articles published between January 1, 1990 and January 20, 2011 on the effects of surgeon specialty and hospital or surgeon volume of lung resections on mortality and survival was conducted. After strict inclusion, meta-analysis assuming a random-effects model was performed. Meta-regression was used to identify volume cutoff values. Heterogeneity and the risk of publication bias were evaluated.

Results: Nineteen relevant studies were found. Studies were heterogeneous, especially in defining volume categories. The pooled estimated effect size was significant in favor of high-volume hospitals regarding postoperative mortality (odds ratio [OR] 0.71; confidence interval 0.62-0.81), but not for survival (OR 0.93; confidence interval 0.84-1.03). Surgeon volume showed no significant effect on outcome. General surgeons had significantly higher mortality risks than general thoracic (OR 0.78; 0.70-0.88) or cardiothoracic surgeons (OR 0.82; 0.69-0.96). A minimal annual volume of resections for lung cancer could not be identified.

Conclusions: Hospital volume and surgeon specialty are important determinants of outcome in lung cancer resections, but evidence-based minimal-volume standards are lacking. Evaluation of individual institutions in a national audit program might help elucidate the influence of individual quality-of-care parameters, including hospital volume, on outcome.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Physicians*
  • Pneumonectomy / mortality*
  • Pneumonectomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prognosis
  • Specialties, Surgical*
  • Survival Rate