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Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2013 Aug;17(2):403-6. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivt144. Epub 2013 Apr 28.

Dissection of the pulmonary ligament during upper lobectomy: is it necessary?

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Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University Hospital of South Manchester, Manchester, UK.


A best evidence topic was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was whether dissection of the pulmonary ligament during an upper lobectomy would result in improved outcomes. A total of 85 articles were found using the reported search, of which eight represented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, date, journal, study type, population, main outcome measures and results are tabulated. Reported measures were complications associated with dissection (atelectasis, bronchial stenosis, bronchial obstruction and bronchial deformation) and preservation (insufficient lung expansion, pooling of effusion and atelectasis) of the pulmonary ligament, ratio (%) of dead space in longitudinal axis (movement of nonoperated lobes), change in the angle (degrees) of main bronchus on the operated side, overall morbidity and mortality, overall survival and conversion rates. In a randomized control trial, the dissection of the pulmonary ligament revealed no significant difference in the dead space ratio or change in the angle of the main bronchus when compared with preservation. Dissection of the ligament, in theory, reduces the free space in the upper thorax by increasing the mobility of the residual lobes. Dissection of the ligament may lead to bronchial deformation, stenosis, obstruction or lobar torsion. Preservation of the ligament may prevent this complication by suppressing the upward movement of residual lobes. However, this may result in pleural effusion in the free thoracic space that may potentially become infected resulting in an empyema or bronchial fistula. Five large case series were analysed; three routinely dissected the pulmonary ligament and two did not. There was no observed difference in clinical outcomes between the two groups. There is no convincing evidence that dissection of the pulmonary ligament in an upper lobectomy significantly improves outcomes and reduces complications.


Pulmonary ligament; Upper lobectomy; Video-assisted thoracic surgery

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