Surgical Outcomes in the National Lung Screening Trial Compared With Contemporary Practice

Ann Thorac Surg. 2022 Jan 7;S0003-4975(22)00017-0. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2021.12.020. Online ahead of print.


Background: The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) established a role for lung cancer screening. Mortality benefits with screening are predicated on successful treatment with low surgical mortality. Given variations observed in perioperative outcomes after lung cancer resection, it remains unknown whether benefits observed in the NLST are generalizable to a broader population. We sought to determine whether NLST perioperative outcomes are reflective of contemporary practice in a national cohort.

Methods: We identified patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer who underwent lung resection in the 2014 to 2015 National Cancer Database (NCDB) and the NLST. We compared demographic and cancer characteristics in both datasets. We used hierarchical logistic regression to compare 30-day and 90-day postoperative mortality across facilities in both datasets.

Results: In all, 65054 patients in NCDB and 1003 patients in the NLST treated across 1119 NCDB hospitals and 33 NLST hospitals were included. After risk and reliability adjustment, mean 30-day and 90-day mortality were significantly higher among NCDB hospitals (mean 30-day, 2.2 [95% confidence interval (CI), 2.2 to 2.2] vs 1.8 [95% CI, 1.8 to 1.8], P < .001; mean 90-day, 4.2 [95% CI, 4.2 to 4.3] vs 2.9 [95% CI, 2.9 to 2.9], P < .001). Variation in risk- and reliability-adjusted 30-day mortality (95% CI, 1.1% to 4.9%) and 90-day mortality (95% CI, 2.6% to 9.7%) was observed among NCDB hospitals. Adjusted mortality was similar among NLST facilities (30 days, 1.8% to 1.8%; 90 days, 2.9% to 2.9%).

Conclusions: Risk- and reliability-adjusted postoperative mortality varies widely in a national cohort compared with outcomes observed in the NLST. Efforts to minimize this variation are needed to ensure that benefits of lung cancer screening are fully realized in the United States.