Objective: Thymectomy is a well-defined therapeutic option for patients with myasthenia gravis; however, controversies still exist about the surgical approach, indication, and timing for surgery. We reviewed our experience reporting surgical and neurologic results after robotic thymectomy in patients with myasthenia gravis.
Methods: Between 2002 and 2010, 100 patients (74 female and 26 male; median age, 37 years) underwent left-sided robotic thymectomy using the da Vinci robotic system (Intuitive Surgical, Inc, Sunnyvale, Calif). The Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America classification was adopted for pre- and postoperative evaluation. Preoperative Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America class was I in 10% of patients, II in 35% of patients, III in 39% of patients, and IV in 16% of patients.
Results: Median operative time was 120 (60-300) minutes. No death or intraoperative complications occurred. Postoperative complications were observed in 6 patients (6%) (bleeding requiring blood transfusions in 3, chylothorax in 1, fever in 1, and myasthenic crisis in 1). Median hospital stay was 3 days (range, 2-14 days). Histologic analysis revealed 76 patients (76%) with hyperplasia, 7 patients (7%) with atrophy, 8 patients (8%) with small thymomas, and 9 patients (9%) with normal thymus; ectopic thymic tissue was found in 26 patients (26%). Clinical follow-up showed a 5-year probability of complete stable remission and overall improvement of 28.5% and 87.5%. Remission was significantly associated with preoperative I to II Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America class (P = .02). A significant improvement rate was found in Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America class I to II (P = .03) and AbAchR+ (P = .04). A high percentage of patients interrupted or reduced their medications.
Conclusions: Robotic thymectomy is a safe and effective procedure. We observed a neurologic benefit in a great number of patients. A better clinical outcome was obtained in patients with early Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America class.
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