Minimally Invasive Lung Cancer Surgery Performed by Thoracic Surgeons as Effective as Thoracotomy.
Purpose The prevalence of minimally invasive lung cancer surgery using video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) has increased dramatically over the past decade, yet recent studies have suggested that the lymph node evaluation during VATS lobectomy is inadequate. We hypothesized that the minimally invasive approach to lobectomy for stage I lung cancer resulted in a longitudinal outcome that was not inferior to thoracotomy. Patients and Methods Patients > 65 years of age who had undergone lobectomy for stage I lung cancer between 2002 and 2013 were analyzed within the Society of Thoracic Surgeons General Thoracic Surgery Database, which had been linked to Medicare data, as part of a retrospective-cohort, noninferiority study. Results A total of 10,597 patients with clinical stage I lung cancer who underwent lobectomy were evaluated (4,448 patients underwent thoracotomy, and 6,149 underwent VATS). VATS patients had a more favorable distribution of all health-related variables, including pulmonary function (59% of VATS patients had intact spirometry v 51% of thoracotomy patients; P < .001). Cox proportional hazards models were performed over two eras to account for an evolving practice standard. The mortality risk associated with the VATS approach was not greater than thoracotomy in either the earlier era (2002 to 2008; hazard ratio, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.87 to 1.09; P = .62) or the more recent era (2009 to 2013; hazard ratio, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.75 to 0.93; P < .001). Kaplan-Meier survival estimates of 2,901 propensity-matched VATS-thoracotomy pairs demonstrated that the 4-year survival associated with VATS (68.6%) was modestly superior to thoracotomy (64.8%; P = .003). The analyses detailed above were replicated in a separate cohort of pathologic stage I patients with similar findings. Conclusion The long-term efficacy of lobectomy for stage I lung cancer performed using the VATS approach by board-certified thoracic surgeons does not seem to be inferior to that of thoracotomy.