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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2001 Mar;121(3):465-71.

Resection for bronchogenic carcinoma involving the carina: long-term results and effect of nodal status on outcome.

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  • 1General Thoracic Surgical Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Department of Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass., USA.



Bronchogenic carcinoma in close proximity to or involving the carina remains a challenging problem for thoracic surgeons. The operative procedures to allow complete resection are technically demanding and can be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Little is known about long-term survival data to guide therapy in these patients.


We conducted a single-institution retrospective review.


We have performed 60 carinal resections for bronchogenic carcinoma: 18 isolated carinal resections for tumor confined to the carinal or proximal main stem bronchus; 35 carinal pneumonectomies; 5 carinal plus lobar resections, and 2 carinal resections for stump recurrence after prior pneumonectomy. Thirteen patients (22%) had a history of lung or airway surgery. The overall operative mortality was 15%, improved from the first half of the series (20%) to the second half (10%), and varied according to the type of resection performed. Adult respiratory distress syndrome was responsible for 5 early deaths, and all late deaths were related to anastomotic complications. In 34 patients, all lymph nodes were negative for metastatic disease; 15 patients had positive N1 nodes, and 11 patients had positive N2/N3 nodes. Complete follow-up was accomplished in 90%, with a mean follow-up of 59 months. The overall 5-year survival including operative mortality was 42%, with 19 absolute 5-year survivors. Survival was highest after isolated carinal resection (51%). Lymph node involvement had a strong influence on survival: patients without nodal involvement had a 5-year survival of 51%, compared with 32% for patients with N1 disease and 12% for those with N2/N3 disease.


This constitutes one of the largest single-institution reports on carinal resection for bronchogenic carcinoma involving the carina. Morbidity and mortality rates are acceptable. The overall survival including operative mortality is 42%. Positive N2/N3 lymph nodes may be a contraindication to surgery because of poor prognosis.

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