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Ann Thorac Surg. 2000 Aug;70(2):373-9.

Median sternotomy versus thoracotomy to resect primary lung cancer: analysis of 815 cases.

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The Oregon Clinic, PC, Earle A Chiles Research Institute, and Medical Data Research Center, Providence Health System, Portland, Oregon 97213, USA.

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  • Ann Thorac Surg 2000 Dec;70(6):2187.



We sought to determine if median sternotomy (MS) is an equivalent incision to thoracotomy (TH) in the treatment of primary pulmonary carcinoma.


We followed 801 patients undergoing 815 operations for primary lung carcinoma in a computer registry; 447 had MS, 368 had TH.


Both groups were similar in preoperative risk assessment. Complete staging lymph node dissections were performed in 42% of MS patients and 17% of TH patients. Operative mortality (3.8% for MS, 3.3% for TH) and postoperative complications were similar. MS patients had a shorter postoperative hospital stay (7.5 days vs. 8.2 days). One hundred thirty-nine underwent pneumonectomy. Operative mortality was 12.5% for MS and 10.4% for TS (p = NS). Five hundred eighty-one underwent lobectomy with an operative mortality of 2.1% for MS and 2.0% for TH. Mean length of stay for MS lobectomy was 7.5 days compared with 8.5 days for TH (p = 0.06). Follow-up was 89% through 1998, comprising 1,339 MS and 1,463 TH patient-years. Survival for stage I at 5 and 10 years, respectively, was 51% and 34% for MS vs 54% and 32% for TH (p = NS). Survival for other stages was also similar.


Median sternotomy provides more complete staging, shorter postoperative hospitalization, and better patient acceptance with equivalent operative and long-term survival when compared with thoracotomy. Concerns regarding increased wound infections in MS patients appear unfounded.

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