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J Neurosurg Spine. 2011 Mar;14(3):377-81. doi: 10.3171/2010.11.SPINE09718. Epub 2011 Jan 21.

Endoscopic resection of intrathoracic tumors: experience with and long-term results for 26 patients.

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Division of Neurological Surgery, Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona 85013, USA.



Thoracoscopy may be used in place of thoracotomy to resect intrathoracic neoplasms such as paraspinal neurogenic tumors. Although these tumors are rare, they account for the majority of tumors arising in the posterior mediastinum.


A database was maintained of all patients undergoing thoracoscopic surgery for tumors. The authors analyzed the presenting symptoms, pathological diagnoses, and outcomes of 26 patients (7 males and 19 females, mean age 37.2 years) who were treated for intrathoracic tumors via thoracoscopy between January 1995 and May 2009. Fourteen patients were diagnosed incidentally (54%). Five patients (19%) presented with dyspnea or shortness of breath, 4 (15%) with pain, 1 (4%) with pneumonia, 1 (4%) with hoarseness, and 1 (4%) with Horner syndrome.


Pathology demonstrated schwannomas in 20 patients (77%). Other diagnoses included ganglioneurofibroma, paraganglioma, epithelioid angiosarcoma, benign hemangioma, benign granular cell tumor, and infectious granuloma. One patient required conversion to open thoracotomy due to pleural scarring to the tumor. One underwent initial laminectomy due to intraspinal extension of the tumor. Gross-total resection was obtained in 25 cases (96%). The remaining patient underwent biopsy followed by radiation therapy. The mean surgical time was 2.5 hours, and the mean blood loss was 243 ml. The mean duration of chest tube insertion was 1.3 days, and the mean length of hospital stay was 3.0 days. Cases that were treated in the second half of the cohort were more often diagnosed incidentally, performed in less time, and had less blood loss than those in the first half of the cohort. There was 1 case of permanent treatment-related morbidity (mild Horner syndrome). All previously employed patients were able to return to work (mean clinical follow-up 43 months). There were no recurrences (mean imaging follow-up 54 months).


Endoscopic transthoracic approaches can reduce approach-related soft-tissue morbidity and facilitate recovery by preserving the normal tissues of the chest wall, by avoiding rib retraction and muscle transection, and by reducing postoperative pain. This less invasive approach thus shortens hospital stay and recovery time.

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