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Ann Thorac Surg. 1999 Nov;68(5):1778-84; discussion 1784-5.

A multidisciplinary surgical approach to superior sulcus tumors with vertebral invasion.

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Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030, USA.



Vertebral body invasion by superior sulcus tumor has traditionally been considered a contraindication to surgical resection. Attempts at definitive radiation or chemoradiation have not been successful. Recent advances in spinal instrumentation have allowed more complete resection of vertebral body tumors. We, therefore, reviewed our recent experience with vertebral resection of superior sulcus tumors.


All patients (n = 17) undergoing resection of superior sulcus tumors with T4 involvement of the vertebrae from October 18, 1990 to September 21, 1998 at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) were evaluated. Their clinical and pathologic data were reviewed and analyzed for short- and long-term outcomes.


Total vertebrectomy was performed in 7 patients (42%), partial vertebrectomy in 7 (42%), and 3 (18%) underwent neural foramina or transverse process resection. The median hospital stay was 11 days. Postoperative complications occurred in 7 patients (42%) and included pneumonia (6, 36%), arrhythmia (2, 12%), cerebrospinal fluid leak (2, 12%), wound breakdown (1, 6%), and reoperation for bleeding (1, 6%). Sixteen out of 17 patients received preoperative or postoperative radiation therapy. No perioperative mortality occurred. All patients remained ambulatory after spinal reconstruction. Overall actuarial survival at 2 years was 54%, with 11 patients still alive 2 to 50 months after resection. Locoregional tumor recurrence was noted in all 6 patients who had positive surgical margins, as opposed to 1 out of 11 patients (9%) with negative margins (p < 0.006). Additionally, the 2-year actuarial survival of patients with negative microscopic margins was 80% versus 0% for positive margins (p < 0.0006).


An aggressive multidisciplinary approach to superior sulcus tumors with vertebral invasion can lead to long-term survival with acceptable morbidity if negative margins can be obtained. Vertebral body invasion should no longer be considered a contraindication for resection of superior sulcus tumors.

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