Background: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. Surgery remains the main method of managing early-stage disease. Minimal-access video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery results in less tissue trauma than open surgery; however, it is not known if it improves patient outcomes.
Objective: To compare the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lobectomy with open surgery for the treatment of lung cancer.
Design, setting and participants: A multicentre, superiority, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial with blinding of participants (until hospital discharge) and outcome assessors conducted in nine NHS hospitals. Adults referred for lung resection for known or suspected lung cancer, with disease suitable for both surgeries, were eligible. Participants were followed up for 1 year.
Interventions: Participants were randomised 1 : 1 to video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lobectomy or open surgery. Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery used one to four keyhole incisions without rib spreading. Open surgery used a single incision with rib spreading, with or without rib resection.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was self-reported physical function (using the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 30) at 5 weeks. Secondary outcomes included upstaging to pathologic node stage 2 disease, time from surgery to hospital discharge, pain in the first 2 days, prolonged pain requiring analgesia at > 5 weeks, adverse health events, uptake of adjuvant treatment, overall and disease-free survival, quality of life (Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 30, Quality of Life Questionnaire Lung Cancer 13 and EQ-5D) at 2 and 5 weeks and 3, 6 and 12 months, and cost-effectiveness.
Results: A total of 503 patients were randomised between July 2015 and February 2019 (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, n = 247; open surgery, n = 256). One participant withdrew before surgery. The mean age of patients was 69 years; 249 (49.5%) patients were men and 242 (48.1%) did not have a confirmed diagnosis. Lobectomy was performed in 453 of 502 (90.2%) participants and complete resection was achieved in 429 of 439 (97.7%) participants. Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 30 physical function was better in the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery group than in the open-surgery group at 5 weeks (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, n = 247; open surgery, n = 255; mean difference 4.65, 95% confidence interval 1.69 to 7.61; p = 0.0089). Upstaging from clinical node stage 0 to pathologic node stage 1 and from clinical node stage 0 or 1 to pathologic node stage 2 was similar (p ≥ 0.50). Pain scores were similar on day 1, but lower in the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery group on day 2 (mean difference -0.54, 95% confidence interval -0.99 to -0.09; p = 0.018). Analgesic consumption was 10% lower (95% CI -20% to 1%) and the median hospital stay was less (4 vs. 5 days, hazard ratio 1.34, 95% confidence interval 1.09, 1.65; p = 0.006) in the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery group than in the open-surgery group. Prolonged pain was also less (relative risk 0.82, 95% confidence interval 0.72 to 0.94; p = 0.003). Time to uptake of adjuvant treatment, overall survival and progression-free survival were similar (p ≥ 0.28). Fewer participants in the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery group than in the open-surgery group experienced complications before and after discharge from hospital (relative risk 0.74, 95% confidence interval 0.66 to 0.84; p < 0.001 and relative risk 0.81, 95% confidence interval 0.66 to 1.00; p = 0.053, respectively). Quality of life to 1 year was better across several domains in the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery group than in the open-surgery group. The probability that video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery is cost-effective at a willingness-to-pay threshold of £20,000 per quality-adjusted life-year is 1.
Limitations: Ethnic minorities were under-represented compared with the UK population (< 5%), but the cohort reflected the lung cancer population.
Conclusions: Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lobectomy was associated with less pain, fewer complications and better quality of life without any compromise to oncologic outcome. Use of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery is highly likely to be cost-effective for the NHS.
Future work: Evaluation of the efficacy of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery with robotic assistance, which is being offered in many hospitals.
Trial registration: This trial is registered as ISRCTN13472721.
Funding: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research ( NIHR ) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 26, No. 48. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.
Keywords: ANALGESIA; BIOPSY; CARDIOTHORACIC SURGERY; COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS; DISEASE PROGRESSION; DISEASE-FREE SURVIVAL; FROZEN SECTIONS; INFORMED CONSENT; INTENTION TO TREAT ANALYSIS; LENGTH OF STAY; LOBECTOMY; LUNG CANCER; MINIMALLY INVASIVE; ONCOLOGY; OPEN SURGERY; PAIN; PAIN MEASUREMENT; PATIENT REPORTED OUTCOME MEASURES; QUALITY OF LIFE; QUALITY-ADJUSTED LIFE YEARS; RANDOMISED CONTROLLED TRIAL; RESPIRATORY MEDICINE; SURGERY; SURVEYS AND QUESTIONNAIRES; THORACIC SURGERY; THORACOTOMY; VATS LOBECTOMY; VIDEO ASSISTED; VIDEO-ASSISTED.
Background: Lung cancer is a common cause of cancer death worldwide. If the disease is caught early, the part of the lung containing the tumour can be removed in an operation called a lobectomy. The operation can be carried out through a large cut so that the surgeon has a full view of the lung, which is called open surgery, or using several small cuts and a camera, which is called video-assisted thoracoscopic (keyhole) surgery. It is thought that, as keyhole surgery is less invasive, patients recover quicker. However, to the best of our knowledge, there are no high-quality research studies that are applicable to UK practice to support this. This study was conducted so that it could be determined, based on high-quality evidence, which operation provides the best treatment and recovery for patients.
Who participated?: Five hundred and three adults referred for lobectomy for known or suspected lung cancer from nine hospitals in the UK.
What was involved?: Participants were randomly allocated to either receive keyhole or open surgery. Participants were followed up for 12 months. We collected information on further treatment, hospital visits, safety information and disease progression over this period. Participants were also asked to complete questionnaires about their health and recovery.
What did the trial find?: For patients with early-stage lung cancer who underwent a lobectomy, keyhole surgery led to less pain, less time in hospital and better quality of life than open surgery, without having a detrimental effect on cancer progression or survival. Keyhole surgery was found to be cost-effective and to provide excellent value for money for the NHS.