Acute and chronic morbidity differences between muscle-sparing and standard lateral thoracotomies

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1996 Nov;112(5):1346-50; discussion 1350-1. doi: 10.1016/S0022-5223(96)70150-2.


Introduction: Opinions differ regarding differences between totally muscle-sparing thoracotomy and standard lateral thoracotomy approaches to pulmonary resection with respect to operative time, postoperative pain and morbidity, and occurrence of chronic postthoracotomy pain syndromes and subjective shoulder dysfunction.

Methods: Three hundred thirty-five consecutive patients undergoing muscle-sparing thoracotomy (n = 148) or lateral thoracotomy (n = 187) to accomplish lobectomy for stage I lung cancer during a 40-month period were evaluated. Local rib resection was not employed, and two chest tubes were routinely used after operation in both thoracotomy groups. Epidural analgesia use was similar after operation in the two groups (muscle-sparing thoracotomy 38%, lateral thoracotomy 38%). The postoperative hospital courses and patient functional statuses at 1 year were examined.

Results: Demographic analyses demonstrated no differences between groups in age, sex, or association of significant comorbid medical illness. Although the operative time required for muscle-sparing thoracotomy was shorter, there were no differences between thoracotomy approaches in any of the other primary acute postoperative variables analyzed (chest tube duration, length of hospital stay, postoperative narcotic requirements, and postoperative mortality). The frequencies of chronic pain and shoulder dysfunction assessed 1 year after operation were also similar between thoracotomy groups.

Conclusions: The relative efficacies and rates of occurrence of acute or chronic morbidity are equivalent after muscle-sparing thoracotomy and standard lateral thoracotomy. Although muscle-sparing thoracotomy may possibly be performed more expediently, it appears that the singular advantage of muscle-sparing thoracotomy over standard lateral thoracotomy involves the preservation of chest wall musculature in case rotational muscle flaps should be needed later.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Respiratory Muscles / surgery*
  • Thoracotomy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome