Objective: Evaluate the existing literature comparing long-term survival after minimally invasive esophagectomy (MIE) and open esophagectomy (OE), and conduct a meta-analysis based on relevant studies.
Background: It is unknown whether the choice between MIE and OE influences the long-term survival in esophageal cancer.
Methods: A systematic electronic search for articles was performed in Medline, Embase, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library for studies comparing long-term survival after MIE and OE. Additionally, an extensive hand-search was conducted. The I test and χ test were used to test for statistical heterogeneity. Publication bias and small-study effects were assessed using Egger test. A random-effects meta-analysis was performed for all-cause 5-year (main outcome) and 3-year mortality, and disease-specific 5-year and 3-year mortality. Meta-regression was performed for the 5-year mortality outcomes with adjustment for the covariates age, physical status, tumor stage, and neoadjuvant or adjuvant therapy. The results were presented as hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
Results: The review identified 55 relevant studies. Among all 14,592 patients, 7358 (50.4%) underwent MIE and 7234 (49.6%) underwent OE. The statistical heterogeneity was limited [I = 12%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0%-41%, and χ = 0.26] and the funnel plot was symmetrical both according to visual and statistical testing (Egger test = 0.32). Pooled analysis revealed 18% lower 5-year all-cause mortality after MIE compared with OE (HR 0.82, 95% CI 0.76-0.88). The meta-regression indicated no confounding.
Conclusions: The long-term survival after MIE compares well with OE and may even be better. Thus, MIE can be recommended as a standard surgical approach for esophageal cancer.