Article Abstract

Salvage surgery after high-dose radiotherapy

Authors: Annemie Van Breussegem, Jeroen M. Hendriks, Patrick Lauwers, Paul E. Van Schil


Salvage surgery is a relatively new entity in thoracic surgery and oncology. Salvage resection after radiotherapy refers to surgery as only remaining therapeutic option in patients who were treated with high-dose stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT) for early-stage lung cancer or full-dose chemoradiation for locally advanced lung cancer. Indications include locally progressive tumors, recurrent local or locoregional disease, or specific complications after radiotherapy such as lung abscesses or infected, necrotic cavities. Small, retrospective series demonstrate that salvage surgery after high-dose radiotherapy is feasible and may yield good long-term results. A clear distinction should be made between salvage surgery after SRT for earlystage lung cancer and salvage procedures after full-dose chemoradiation for lung cancers with locoregional extension into the mediastinum. Salvage surgery after SRT may be rather straightforward and in specific cases even feasible by a minimally invasive approach. In contrast, surgery after a full dose of chemoradiation delivered several months or years earlier, can be quite challenging and the dissection of the pulmonary artery and mediastinal lymph nodes technically demanding. Due to the more central irradiation an intrapericardial dissection is often required. To prevent a bronchopleural fistula protection of the bronchial stump with well-vascularized flaps is recommended. Each individual patient in whom salvage surgery is considered, should be discussed thoroughly within a multidisciplinary board, detailed cardiopulmonary functional evaluation is required, and the operation should be performed by an experienced team including a thoracic surgeon, anaesthesiologist and intensive care physician. At the present time only retrospective series are available. Carefully designed prospective studies are necessary to more precisely define indications and results of salvage surgery not only after SRT for peripherally localized lesions but also following full-dose chemoradiation for locoregionally advanced disease.