Comparative clinical outcomes of thymectomy for myasthenia gravis performed by extended transsternal and minimally invasive approaches

Dan M Meyer, Morley A Herbert, Nasin C Sobhani, Paul Tavakolian, Andrea Duncan, Michelle Bruns, Kevin Korngut, Janet Williams, Syma L Prince, L Huber, Gil I Wolfe, Michael J Mack
Annals of Thoracic Surgery 2009, 87 (2): 385-90; discussion 390-1

BACKGROUND: Both transsternal and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) approaches are used for thymectomy in myasthenia gravis. We compared outcomes of simultaneous experiences in two institutions: one utilizing the transsternal approach exclusively, the other using VATS procedures for all patients. The Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America guidelines were used to standardize reporting.

METHODS: Between March 1992 and September 2006, 95 thymectomies were performed for myasthenia gravis; 48 by VATS and 47 by transsternal approach. Preoperative classification and postoperative disease status were compared between the groups.

RESULTS: Mean age was 39.8 +/- 14.9 (VATS) versus 34.4 +/- 13.2 years (transsternal) (p = 0.07); the proportion of females was 52% versus 67% (p = 0.15); and preoperative duration of myasthenia gravis was 27 +/- 44 versus 20 +/- 45 months (p = 0.43), respectively. Clinical follow up was 89.5% complete at a mean of 6.0 +/- 4.0 years and 4.3 +/- 2.9 years (p = 0.03). The operative time was 128 +/- 34 minutes (VATS) versus 119 +/- 27 minutes (transsternal) (p = 0.22). The need for postoperative ventilation was 4.2% versus 16.2% (p = 0.07) and mean length of stay was 1.9 +/- 2.6 versus 4.6 +/- 4.2 days (p < 0.001). Thymomas were found in 8.3% of VATS versus 13.3% of transsternal patients (p = 0.44). No myasthenia gravis related deaths occurred and 95.8% of the VATS and 97.9% of the transsternal patients were in either complete stable remission, pharmacologic remission, or minimal manifestations status. In the VATS group, 13 of 17 (76.5%) patients stopped prednisone usage after surgery versus 5 of 14 (35.7%) in the transsternal group (p = 0.022).

CONCLUSIONS: Thymectomy is an effective treatment in patients with myasthenia gravis with equivalent clinical outcomes obtained by either approach.

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