Effect of operative approach on quality of life following anatomic lung cancer resection

Emily S. Singer, Peter J. Kneuertz, Jennifer Nishimura, Desmond M. D’Souza, Ellen Diefenderfer, Susan D. Moffatt-Bruce, Robert E. Merritt


Patient-reported outcomes (PRO) after lung cancer surgery are of increasing interest to patients and clinicians. A variety of studies have investigated the impact of the surgical approach on quality of life (QOL) after surgery for early non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Our aim is to review the current evidence on how minimally-invasive approaches, including video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and robotic-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (RATS), versus open thoracotomy for lung cancer affect QOL. We conducted a systematic review of the literature of studies comparing QOL after VATS/RATS versus thoracotomy approach using studies published before 2019 on PubMed and Google Scholar. Studies were assessed for differences in QOL by domains. Fifteen studies met our inclusion criteria including 14 observational studies and one randomized trial. Survey instruments and timing of QOL assessments differed between all studies. A thoracoscopic (VATS or RATS) approach was associated with better general health (3/10 studies), physical functioning (9/14 studies), social functioning (1/12 studies), mental health (3/13 studies), emotional role functioning (4/12 studies), physical role functioning (7/12 studies), and bodily pain (7/12 studies) as compared to open surgery. The open thoracotomy approach was associated with better general health and mental health in one study each. Although QOL assessment in current studies is highly variable, the existing evidence suggests that a thoracoscopic approach is associated with improved QOL, particularly in the areas of physical functioning and pain as compared to open lung cancer surgery.