The Prevalence of Benign Pathology Following Major Pulmonary Resection for Suspected Malignancy

J Surg Res. 2021 Dec;268:498-506. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2021.07.005. Epub 2021 Aug 23.


Background: In the era of lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography, there is concern that high false-positive rates may lead to an increase in nontherapeutic lung resection. The aim of this study is to determine the current rate of major pulmonary resection for ultimately benign pathology.

Materials and methods: A single-institution, retrospective analysis of all patients > 18 y who underwent major pulmonary resection between 2013 and 2018 for suspected malignancy and had benign final pathology was performed.

Results: Of 394 major pulmonary resections performed for known or presumed malignancy, 10 (2.5%) were benign. Of these 10, the mean age was 61.1 y (SD 14.6). Most were current or former smokers (60%). Ninety percent underwent a fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography scan. Median nodule size was 27 mm (IQR 21-35) and most were in the right middle lobe (50%). Preoperative biopsy was performed in four (40%) but were nondiagnostic. Video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy (70%) was the most common surgical approach. Final pathology revealed three (30%) infectious, three (30%) inflammatory, two (20%) fibrotic, and two (20%) benign neoplastic nodules. Two (20%) patients had perioperative complications, both of which were prolonged air leaks, one (10%) patient was readmitted within 30 d, and there was no mortality.

Conclusions: A small percentage of patients (2.5% in our series) may undergo major pulmonary resection for unexpectedly benign pathology. Knowledge of this rate is useful to inform shared decision-making models between surgeons and patients and evaluation of thoracic surgery program performance.

Keywords: Lung cancer; Thoracic oncology; Thoracic surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy / adverse effects
  • Pneumonectomy / methods
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule* / diagnosis
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule* / pathology
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule* / surgery
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / adverse effects
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / methods