Assessment of robotic thymectomy using the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America Guidelines

Seth D Goldstein, Stephen C Yang
Annals of Thoracic Surgery 2010, 89 (4): 1080-5; discussion 1085-6

BACKGROUND: Robotic thymectomy is an emerging treatment for myasthenia gravis. However, the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America clinical research standards have been infrequently adopted in the surgical literature.

METHODS: Twenty-six patients underwent robotic thymectomy for myasthenia gravis between 2003 and 2008, performed by a single surgeon using the da Vinci system (Intuitive Surgical; Sunnyvale, CA) through a four-port right-sided approach.

RESULTS: Mean operative times were 68+/-25 minutes of robotic system activation and 127+/-35 minutes from incision to closure. There were no intraoperative or postoperative mortalities; the most common intraoperative complication was desaturation after single-lung ventilation, for which four procedures were converted to open. On histologic examination, there were five thymomas. The average follow-up after surgery was 26 months. Median preoperative and postoperative Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America disease classifications were 2 and 0, respectively, reflecting a statistically significant decrease in symptoms (p<0.01). Additionally, the average daily dose of cholinesterase inhibitor decreased by 63% postoperatively. Overall, 82% of patients improved and 18% were unchanged; no worsening disease was observed.

CONCLUSIONS: Robotic thymectomy is a safe and efficacious treatment option for myasthenia gravis. There were no notable differences in patient demographics compared with previously published reports of open thymectomies. Furthermore, surgical and neurologic outcomes in this series compare favorably with conventional approaches in the literature. Of those with follow-up greater than 6 months, 82% of patients undergoing robotic thymectomy demonstrated significant clinical improvement postoperatively, indicating that this approach in concert with optimized medical management is an effective treatment for myasthenia gravis.

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