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Ann Thorac Surg. 1993 Dec;56(6):1285-9.

Postoperative pain-related morbidity: video-assisted thoracic surgery versus thoracotomy.

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  • 1Section of Thoracic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213.


One hundred thirty-eight consecutive, nonrandomized patients, with equivalent demographic and preoperative physiologic parameters, underwent either a video-assisted thoracic surgical (VATS) approach (n = 81) or a limited lateral thoracotomy (LLT) approach (n = 57) to accomplish pulmonary resection for peripheral lung lesions (< or = 3 cm in diameter). Wedge resection was done in 74 VATS patients and 19 LLT patients. Seven patients underwent VATS lobectomy and 38 patients had lobectomy performed through an LLT. Pain was quantitated by postoperative narcotic requirements, the need for intercostal/epidural analgesia, and patient perception of pain index scoring. Shoulder and pulmonary function (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) were measured preoperatively, 3 days postoperatively, and at 3 weeks of follow-up. Patients undergoing VATS experienced significantly less postoperative pain. No patients undergoing VATS required intercostal block/epidural analgesia; 31 LLT patients (54%) required this treatment for breakthrough pain (p = 0.001). Narcotic requirements were less (p = 0.05) among VATS patients, which correlated with lower perception of pain index after operation for VATS patients. Shoulder girdle strength was equally impaired at day 3, but function was more improved in VATS patients at 3 weeks (p = 0.01). Patients undergoing wedge resection alone by LLT had greater impairment in early (day 3) pulmonary function (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) (p = 0.002); this difference from VATS was not sustained at 3 weeks. Video-assisted thoracic surgery is associated with reduced pain, shoulder dysfunction, and early pulmonary impairment compared with LLT for select patients requiring pulmonary resection.

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