Article Abstract

Robot-assisted minimally invasive thoraco-laparoscopic esophagectomy for esophageal cancer in the upper mediastinum

Authors: Sylvia van der Horst, Teun Johannes Weijs, Jelle Pieter Ruurda, Nadia Haj Mohammad, Stella Mook, Lodewijk Adriaan Anton Brosens, Richard van Hillegersberg


Background: Patients with upper third esophageal cancer or esophageal cancer with upper mediastinal paratracheal lymph node metastases are often precluded from surgery because of technical difficulties. With the aid of robotic surgery, an excellent overview and reach of the thoracic inlet can be accomplished. In this way, patients with upper mediastinal esophageal cancer are eligible for esophageal resection with curative intent. The aim of this study was to review the results of a consecutive series of patients who underwent robot-assisted minimally invasive esophagectomy (RAMIE) for tumors of the upper 1/3 of the esophagus or positive lymph nodes in the upper mediastinum.
Methods: Between 2007–2016, 31 patients who underwent RAMIE in the UMC Utrecht for proximal esophageal cancer or proximal thoracic lymphadenopathy were identified from a prospective surgical database. Perioperative characteristics and oncologic outcomes were collected.
Results: The majority of patients had a squamous cell carcinoma. Clinical tumor stage was cT3 or higher in 25 (81%) of patients. Clinically positive lymph nodes (cN1–3) were observed in 29 (94%) patients. Neoadjuvant treatment was administered in 27 (87%) patients. Median duration of the surgical procedure was 435 min (range 299–874 min). Pulmonary complications were most frequent and occurred in 13 (42%) patients. Median intensive care (ICU stay) was 1 day (range 1–65 days) and median overall postoperative hospital stay was 15 days (range 10–118 days). In hospital mortality was 10%. Causes of mortality were tracheo-neo-esophageal fistula, sepsis after abdominal wall drainage due to leakage of the jejunal fistula resulting in respiratory and kidney failure, after which refraining further treatment resulting in death, and irreversible ARDS in a patient with COPD Gold III needing extracorporeal life support. Radical resection was achieved in 30 (97%) of the patients. Median number of retrieved lymph nodes was 22 (range 9–57). Median time of follow up was 18 months (range 3–81 months). Median disease-free survival was 13 months (range 0–81 months) and median overall survival was 16 months (range 0–81 months). Tumor recurrence occurred in 15 patients (48%) and was locoregional only in 3 patients, systemic only in 5 patients and combined locoregional and systemic in 7 patients.
Conclusions: Robot assisted thoraco-laparoscopic esophagectomy with curative intent in patients with upper mediastinal esophageal cancer is feasible, but associated with increased in hospital mortality. Short-term oncologic results are encouraging.