An enhanced recovery after surgery program for video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery anatomical lung resections is cost-effective

J Thorac Dis. 2018 Oct;10(10):5879-5888. doi: 10.21037/jtd.2018.09.100.


Background: Enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) programs have been reported to decrease complications and shorten hospital stays after lung resections, but their implementation requires time and financial investment with dedicated staff. The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical and economic outcomes of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) anatomical pulmonary resections before and after implementation of an ERAS program.

Methods: The first 50 consecutive patients undergoing VATS lobectomy or segmentectomy for malignancy after implementation of an ERAS program were compared with 50 consecutive patients treated before its introduction. The ERAS protocol included preoperative counseling, reduced preoperative fasting with concomitant carbohydrate loading, avoidance of premedication, standardized surgery, anesthesia and postoperative analgesia, early removal of chest tube, nutrition and mobilization. Length of stay, readmissions and cardio-pulmonary complications within 30 days were compared. Total costs were collected for each patient and a cost-minimization analysis integrating ERAS-specific costs was performed.

Results: Both groups were similar in terms of demographics and surgical characteristics. The ERAS group had significantly shorter postoperative length of stay (median: 4 vs. 7 days, P<0.0001), decreased pulmonary complications (16% vs. 38%; P=0.01) and decreased overall post-operative complications (24% vs. 48%, P=0.03). One patient in each group was readmitted and there was no 30-day mortality. ERAS-specific costs were calculated at €729 per patient including the clinical nurse and database costs. Average total hospitalization costs were significantly lower in ERAS group (€15,945 vs. €20,360, P<0.0001), mainly due to lower costs during the post-operative period (€7,449 vs. €11,454, P<0.0001) in comparison with the intra-operative period (€8,496 vs. €8,906, P=0.303). Cost-minimization analysis showed a mean saving in the ERAS group of €3,686 per patient.

Conclusions: An ERAS program for VATS anatomical lung resection is cost-effective and is associated with a lower complication rate and a shorter postoperative hospitalization.

Keywords: Enhanced recovery; lobectomy; lung cancer; segmentectomy; thoracoscopy.