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Ann Thorac Surg. 2016 Jan;101(1):238-44; discussion 44-5. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2015.05.136. Epub 2015 Sep 28.

Nodal Upstaging During Lung Cancer Resection Is Associated With Surgical Approach.

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Department of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky. Electronic address:
Department of Biostatistics, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.
Department of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.



Recent reports indicate that thoracoscopic lobectomy for lung cancer may be associated with lower rates of surgical upstaging. We queried a statewide cancer registry for differences in upstaging rates and survival by surgical approach.


The Kentucky Cancer Registry (KCR) collects data, including centralized pathology reporting, on cancer patients treated statewide. We performed a retrospective review from 2010 to 2012 to examine clinical and pathologic stage. We assessed rates of upstaging and whether the surgical approach, thoracotomy (THOR) versus minimally invasive techniques (video-assisted thoracic surgery; VATS), had an impact on final pathologic stage and survival.


The KCR database from 2010 to 2012 contained information on 2830 lung cancer cases, 1964 having THOR procedure and 500 having VATS resections. Preoperatively, 36.4% of THOR were clinically stage 1a versus 47.4% VATS (p = 0.0002). Of these, final pathologic stage remained stage 1a in 30.5% of THOR procedures and 38.0% of VATS (p = 0.0002). The overall nodal upstaging rate for THOR was 9.9% and 4.8% for VATS (p = 0.002). Decreased nodal upstaging was found with VATS, independent of tumor size and extent of resection (odds ratio 0.6, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.387 to 0.985, p = 0.04). However, improved survival was found with VATS compared with THOR (hazard ratio 0.733, 95% CI: 0.592 to 0.907, p = 0.0042).


Consistent with other reports, we report a lower upstaging rate with VATS. Nevertheless, there is a survival advantage in VATS patients. Although selection bias may play a role in these observed differences, the improved quality of life measures associated with VATS may explain survival improvement despite lower surgical upstaging.

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