What is the role of wedge resection for T1a lung cancer?
Since 1995, lobar resection became the standard of care for medically fit patients with early stage lung cancer. This was based on the results of a single randomized trial comparing lobectomy and sublobar resection (SLR) in stage I lung cancer conducted by the lung cancer study group between 1982 and 1988. The conclusions of the study included a statistically significant tripling in loco-regional recurrence (LR) after limited resection but no difference between the two arms of the trial in systemic recurrence. Although both overall survival and cancer specific survival favored lobectomy, neither achieved statistical significance. Regardless, this landmark trial established lobectomy as the preferred oncological resection for early stage lung cancer. The practice of thoracic surgery has evolved significantly since the study period of the Lung Cancer Study Group, and this has led some surgeons to question its relevance to contemporary practice. The increased detection of smaller more precisely staged tumors combined with the rising segment of the population that is elderly with limited cardiopulmonary reserve has renewed interest in sub-lobar resection including wedge resection as either a definitive therapeutic strategy or as a compromise approach in patients with poor performance status. The interest in wedge resections is also to some extent further fueled by the emergence and increased utilization of competing technologies of local control such as stereotactic radiation or percutaneous and trans-bronchial ablative techniques. Although the results of the LCSG still cast a long shadow over the soundness of wedge resection as a cancer operation, much literature has been published in the subsequent years on this topic. We present in this review an overview of the conflicting data and offer our perspective on the role of wedge resection in early stage lung cancer.