Comparisons of short-term outcomes between robot-assisted and thoraco-laparoscopic esophagectomy with extended two-field lymph node dissection for resectable thoracic esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

Junying Chen, Qianwen Liu, Xu Zhang, Hong Yang, Zihui Tan, Yaobin Lin, Jianhua Fu


Background: Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery has been identified as priori choice compared with open approaches in esophageal cancer surgery. With the developments in the Da Vinci robotic system, the robot-assisted minimally invasive esophagectomy (RAMIE) has been increasingly popular. However, whether RAMIE could be a better choice over thoraco-laparoscopic minimally invasive esophagectomy (TLMIE) is unclear.
Methods: The clinicopathological characteristics of patients who received RAMIE or TLMIE with modern two-field lymph node dissection in Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center between Jan 2016 to Jan 2018 were retrospectively retrieved. The 1:1 propensity score match analysis was performed to compare the short-term effectiveness and safety between the two groups.
Results: Two hundred and fifteen esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) patients received RAMIE (101 patients) or TLMIE (114 patients) were included in the analysis. After a 1:1 propensity score matching, 108 patients (54 pairs) who received RAMIE or TLMIE displayed no significant variance in baseline clinicopathological characteristics. No significant difference in operative time, intraoperative blood loss, number of resected lymph nodes, and R0 resection rates were observed between the matched groups. However, the recurrent laryngeal nerve protection was better in RAMIE group (P=0.021). Nevertheless, both the incidences of common postoperative complications and length of ICU (hospital) stay were similar in two groups. The average total (P=0.009) and daily (P=0.028) expenses of RAMIE were higher.
Conclusions: In general, RAMIE could benefit patients by providing better recurrent laryngeal nerve protection. In order to promote the applications of RAMIE, more efforts should be made to reduce the costs by the social and medical insurance agencies.