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Ann Thorac Surg. 1993 Sep;56(3):675-9.

En bloc and standard esophagectomies by thoracoscopy.

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Department of Surgery, Louvain Medical School, Brussels, Belgium.


Subtotal esophagectomy was attempted by right thoracoscopy on 13 patients, 10 having cancer and 3 long caustic stenosis. Thoracoscopy was converted into thoracotomy in 2 patients, owing to loss of selectivity in one-lung ventilation in 1 and injury to a right intercostal artery flush to the aorta in the other. One patient with cancer underwent an esophageal bypass operation only, owing to tumor invasion into the lung at exploratory thoracoscopy. The ten esophagectomies that could be performed in totality by thoracoscopy consisted of seven en bloc resections of the esophagus with extensive lymph node clearance in the posterior mediastinum, and three standard resections without any lymph node dissection. Postoperative complications included one death due to hepatic failure, two cases of acute pneumonitis, and one persistent chest wall discomfort at the trocar sites. Up to 51 lymph nodes were found in the resected specimens of the cancer patients. Six of the 7 cancer patients who were discharged from the hospital after esophagectomy completed by thoracoscopy were alive at 2 to 20 months of follow-up. Five of them were disease free. The study shows that esophageal resections as extensive as those carried out by thoracotomy can be performed by thoracoscopy. It suggests that prompt management of untoward injury to any mediastinal structure adjacent to the esophagus is less easy by thoracoscopy than by thoracotomy, and that classic complications of open thoracic surgery may occur after thoracoscopy as well.

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