Is there a survival advantage of incomplete resection of non-small-cell lung cancer that is found to be unresectable at thoracotomy?

Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2013 Apr;16(4):529-32. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivs428. Epub 2013 Jan 11.


A best evidence topic in thoracic surgery was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was: in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer that is found to be unresectable at thoracotomy, is incomplete resection superior for achieving survival advantage? Altogether more than 400 papers were found using the reported search, of which nine represented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes and results of these papers were tabulated. In total, data from an estimated 1083 patients were analysed. Three-year survival rates varied from 0 to 22% in incomplete resection and from 0 to 10% in exploratory thoracotomy. Median survival ranged from 6.5 to 19.1 months in incomplete resection and from 5.3 to 17 months in exploratory thoracotomy. The majority of studies (8/9) found survival in incomplete resection to be superior. However, only 3/9 studies presented statistical analysis of results. The largest of these found superior postoperative survival in incomplete resection (including residual nodal disease), one study showed a significant survival difference for R1 but not R2 resection and another with small patient numbers (n = 29) found no significant difference. We conclude that the best evidence suggests that there may be a survival advantage from incomplete resection of non-small-cell lung cancer when there is microscopic (R1) or nodal residual disease, but not when macroscopic residual (R2) disease remains.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm, Residual
  • Pneumonectomy* / adverse effects
  • Pneumonectomy* / mortality
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate
  • Thoracotomy* / adverse effects
  • Thoracotomy* / mortality
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome