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Ann Thorac Surg. 2001 Sep;72(3):879-84.

What is the advantage of a thoracoscopic lobectomy over a limited thoracotomy procedure for lung cancer surgery?

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Department of Thoracic Surgery, Saiseikai Central Hospital, Tokyo, Japan.



To clarify any advantages of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) over anterior limited thoracotomy (ALT) for lobectomy in lung cancer, we compared the two procedures in a retrospective analysis.


Sex- and age-matched (+/- 5 years) lung cancer patients in clinical stage I who underwent lobectomy by means of VATS (n = 33) or ALT (n = 33) were compared in terms of the number of resected lymph nodes, operating time, intraoperative blood loss, duration of postoperative chest tube drainage, and chest pain. Pain was evaluated using a visual analog scale and analgesic requirements. Vital capacity (VC), respiratory muscle strength, and results of a 6-minute walking (6 MW) test were also compared preoperatively and 1 and 2 weeks postoperatively.


Compared with the ALT group, the VATS group experienced less pain between postoperative day (POD) 1 and POD 7 (p < 0.05 to 0.001) and had lower analgesic requirements up to POD 7 (p < 0.001). However, there were no significant differences in pain on POD 14. There were also no significant differences in intraoperative factors or in the postoperative impairment of VC, respiratory muscle strength, and 6 MW test results.


Although VATS lobectomy reduces chest pain during the first week after surgery compared with ALT, this advantage is lost within 2 weeks. Both techniques result in similar impairments of pulmonary function, respiratory muscle strength and walking capacity. Therefore, if curative resection of lung cancer by VATS would be technically difficult for any reason, including the surgeon's skill and experience, a limited open thoracotomy would be preferable from the standpoints of safety and the patient's prognosis.

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