Technical difficulties and extending the indications for VATS lobectomy

Vadim G. Pischik


Background: Data on advantages of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) lobectomies has been accumulated during the last 10 years then number of thoracoscopic anatomic pulmonary resections rapidly increased. But still there is no agreement about limitations of the method. The most popular “technical contraindications” for VATS anatomic pulmonary resections are: dense pleural adhesions, incompleteness of interlobar fissure, previous chemo- or/and radiotherapy, perivascular or/and peribronchial fibrosis, tumor larger than 5 cm, chest wall involvement, centrally located tumor, severe comorbidity, advanced age, severe COPD and emphysema. Extending of indications for the VATS anatomic pulmonary resection and its influence on the immediate outcomes was investigated.
Methods: Ninety two consecutive cases of VATS anatomic pulmonary resection performed by the single surgeon from January 2012 till December 2013 at the Federal University Hospital #122 in Saint Petersburg, Russia were retrospectively analyzed. Forty three males and 49 females at the age from 21 to 87 years old (mean age 59±7.2). The most of the cases were comprised by lung cancer of I-III stage together with bronchiectasis and tuberculomas. Conversion rate was 3.2% mostly due to perivascular calcification and/or fibrosis. There were no cases of 30-days mortality and readmission. All those patients retrospectively divided into two groups: with standard and extended indications for the VATS lobectomy. Inclusion in “extended” group was made if patients had one or more technical challenges among following: size of the lesion 5 cm and more; strong pleural adhesions and/or “bad fissure”; adjacent structures involvement; hilar or mediastinal lymph nodes enlargement or involvement; centrally located tumors; previous chemo- or chemoradiotherapy or previous thoracic surgery.
Results: According to these criteria, 45 standard (S) and 47 extended (E) patients were pair-matched with no statistically significant differences between the groups in common patients’ characteristics. Postoperative comparison of “standard” and “expanded” groups revealed some differences in average operation time (152 vs. 189 min), in number of resected mediastinal lymph nodes (10.2 vs. 13.1), and in the mean time before removal of the chest tube (3.9 vs. 5.2 days). But the blood loss, morbidity and the length of hospital stay were almost the same in the two groups.
Conclusions: Extension of indications to VATS lobectomy does not compromise the short-term results. Incompleteness of interlobar fissures, pleural adhesions, preoperative chemotherapy, big size of lesion, and some cases of centrally located tumors are not supposed to be the contraindications for VATS lobectomy. Peribronchial and perivascular lymph node calcification may complicate and even preclude lobectomy by VATS.