Background: Minimal access surgery is an alternative to open surgery in esophageal surgery. Its role in cancer resection is controversial.
Methods: Thoracoscopic esophageal resection was attempted in 22 patients who had increased operative risk. Postoperative outcomes of these patients were compared with the outcomes of 63 patients who underwent open thoracotomy resection during the same period.
Results: Thoracoscopy was completed in 18 patients. Conversion to thoracotomy was necessary because of locally advanced tumor in three patients, and a bypass procedure was performed in another patient because of poor ventilation during thoracoscopy and the finding of metastatic disease. The median thoracoscopy time was 110 minutes (range, 55 to 165 minutes). The total operating times were 240 minutes (range, 165 to 360 minutes) and 250 minutes (range, 190 to 420 minutes) for thoracoscopy and thoracotomy, respectively, p = 0.5. Blood loss was significantly less than that of open resection; medians were 450 ml (range, 200 to 800 ml) and 700 ml (range, 300 to 2500 ml) for thoracoscopy and thoracotomy, respectively, p < 0.01. The median number of lymph nodes removed at thoracoscopy was 7 (range, 2 to 13) compared with 13 (range, 5 to 34) in the thoracotomy group. Bronchopneumonia affected 17% of both groups of patients. Only one patient who was converted to open thoracotomy died. Port site recurrence developed in one patient. Overall survival rates were not significantly different.
Conclusions: Thoracoscopic esophageal resection was a feasible option. Clear advantages over open thoracotomy were not demonstrated, although patients who were selected for thoracoscopy had worse performance status. This technique deserves further investigation in dedicated centers.