Four-arm robotic lobectomy for the treatment of early-stage lung cancer

Giulia Veronesi, Domenico Galetta, Patrick Maisonneuve, Franca Melfi, Ralph Alexander Schmid, Alessandro Borri, Fernando Vannucci, Lorenzo Spaggiari
Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery 2010, 140 (1): 19-25

OBJECTIVES: We investigated the feasibility and safety of four-arm robotic lung lobectomy in patients with lung cancer and described the robotic lobectomy technique with mediastinal lymph node dissection.

METHODS: Over 21 months, 54 patients underwent robotic lobectomy for early-stage lung cancer at our institute. We used a da Vinci Robotic System (Intuitive Surgical, Inc, Mountain View, Calif) with three ports plus one utility incision to isolate hilum elements and perform vascular and bronchial resection using standard endoscopic staplers. Standard mediastinal lymph node dissection was performed subsequently. Surgical outcomes were compared with those in 54 patients who underwent open surgery over the same period and were matched to the robotic group using propensity scores for a series of preoperative variables.

RESULTS: Conversion to open surgery was necessary in 7 (13%) cases. Postoperative complications (11/54, 20%, in each group) and median number of lymph nodes removed (17.5 robotic vs 17 open) were similar in the 2 groups. Median robotic operating time decreased by 43 minutes (P = .02) from first tertile (18 patients) to the second-plus-third tertile (36 patients). Median postoperative hospitalization was significantly shorter after robotic (excluding first tertile) than after open operations (4.5 days vs 6 days; P = .002).

CONCLUSIONS: Robotic lobectomy with lymph node dissection is practicable, safe, and associated with shorter postoperative hospitalization than open surgery. From the number of lymph nodes removed it also appears oncologically acceptable for early lung cancer. Benefits in terms of postoperative pain, respiratory function, and quality of life still require evaluation. We expect that technologic developments will further simplify the robotic procedure.

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