Thoracotomy and VATS Surgery in Local Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: Differences in Long-Term Health-Related Quality Of Life

Clin Lung Cancer. 2019 Sep;20(5):378-383. doi: 10.1016/j.cllc.2019.05.010. Epub 2019 May 16.


Background: As a result of routine low-dose computed tomographic screening, lung cancer is more frequently diagnosed at earlier, operable stages of disease. In treating local non-small-cell lung cancer, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), a minimally invasive surgical approach, has replaced thoracotomy as the standard of care. While short-term quality-of-life outcomes favor the use of VATS, the impact of VATS on long-term health-related quality of life (HRQoL) is unknown.

Patients and methods: We studied patients who underwent lobectomy for the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer from January 2006 to January 2013 at a single institution (n = 456). Patients who underwent segmentectomy (n = 27), who received neoadjuvant therapy (n = 13), or who were found to have clinical stage > T2 or > N0 disease (n = 45) were excluded from analysis. At time of HRQoL assessment, 199 patients were eligible for study and were mailed the generic HRQoL instrument 15D.

Results: A total of 180 patients (90.5%) replied; 92 respondents underwent VATS while 88 underwent open thoracotomy. The VATS group more often had adenocarcinoma (P = .006), and lymph node stations were sampled to a lesser extent (P = .004); additionally, hospital length of stay was shorter among patients undergoing VATS (P = .001). No other clinical or pathologic differences were observed between the 2 groups. Surprisingly, patients who underwent VATS scored significantly lower on HRQoL on the dimensions of breathing, speaking, usual activities, mental function, and vitality, and they reported a lower total 15D score, which reflects overall quality of life (P < .05).

Conclusion: In contrast to earlier short-term reports, long-term quality-of-life measures are worse among patients who underwent VATS compared to thoracotomy.

Keywords: 15D; NSCLC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy / methods*
  • Quality of Life
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / methods*
  • Thoracotomy / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome