Article Abstract

Robotic surgery, video-assisted thoracic surgery, and open surgery for early stage lung cancer: comparison of costs and outcomes at a single institute

Authors: Pierluigi Novellis, Edoardo Bottoni, Emanuele Voulaz, Umberto Cariboni, Alberto Testori, Luca Bertolaccini, Laura Giordano, Elisa Dieci, Lorenzo Granato, Elena Vanni, Marco Montorsi, Marco Alloisio, Giulia Veronesi


Background: Robotic surgery is increasingly used to resect lung cancer. However costs are high. We compared costs and outcomes for robotic surgery, video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), and open surgery, to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Methods: We retrospectively assessed 103 consecutive patients given lobectomy or segmentectomy for clinical stage I or II NSCLC. Three surgeons could choose VATS or open, the fourth could choose between all three techniques. Between-group differences were assessed by Fisher’s exact, two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), and Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test. P values <0.05 were considered significant.
Results: Twenty-three patients were treated by robot, 41 by VATS, and 39 by open surgery. Age, physical status, pulmonary function, comorbidities, stage, and perioperative complications did not differ between the groups. Pathological tumor size was greater in the open than VATS and robotic groups (P=0.025). Duration of surgery was 150, 191 and 116 minutes, by robotic, VATS and open approaches, respectively (P<0.001). Significantly more lymph node stations were removed (P<0.001), and median length of stay was shorter (4, 5 and 6 days, respectively; P<0.001) in the robotic than VATS and open groups. Estimated costs were 82%, 68% and 69%, respectively, of the regional health service reimbursement for robotic, VATS and open approaches.
Discussion: Robotic surgery for early lung cancer was associated with shorter stay and more extensive lymph node dissection than VATS and open surgery. Duration of surgery was shorter for robotic than VATS. Although the cost of robotic thoracic surgery is high, the hospital makes a profit.