Is pleurectomy and decortication superior to palliative care in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma?

Imran Zahid, Sumera Sharif, Tom Routledge, Marco Scarci
Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery 2011, 12 (5): 812-7
A best evidence topic in thoracic surgery was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was whether pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) is superior to palliative care in the treatment of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). Overall 80 papers were found using the reported search, of which 11 represented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes and results are tabulated. We conclude that P/D may lead to superior survival rates but at the expense of higher morbidity rates to palliative treatment. Six studies reported patient outcomes after use of radical P/D to treat patients with MPM. Radical P/D leads to a higher median survival than supportive care (14.5 vs. 4.5 months) and non-radical decortication (15.3 vs. 7.1 months, P < 0.000). However, radical P/D had a complication rate of 30%, hospital stay of 12 days with an operative mortality rate of 9.1%. One-year survival rate was 65% but this fell to 0-24% at three years. Three studies highlighted the use of palliative chemotherapy to manage patients with MPM. Median survival (14 vs. 10 months) was higher in patients who received chemotherapy early compared to those on a delayed protocol. Early chemotherapy had a longer time to disease progression (25 vs. 11 weeks, P = 0.1) and greater one-year survival (66% vs. 36%) than the delayed group. Active symptom control (ASC) alone had lower symptom control rates than the combination of ASC plus MVP (mitomycin+vinblastine+cisplatin) (7% vs. 11%, P = 0.0017) and ASC plus vinorelbine (4% vs. 7%, P = 0.047). Three studies reported results of palliative surgery in patients with known MPM. Median survival period was 213 days with a 30-day mortality rate of 7.8%. Survival rates reduced from 70.6% at three months to 25.5% at one-year post-surgery. Prolonged air-leak and postoperative empyema complicated 9.8% and 4% of patients, respectively. P/D is a morbid operation that is associated with significant perioperative mortality and complication rates. Although a number of retrospective studies have shown a small benefit in survival with P/D, the heavily documented similarity in patient outcomes between P/D and extrapleural pneumonectomy along with the results of the Mesothelioma and Radical Surgery trial, should induce the surgical community to consider the use of P/D only in patients with malignant mesothelioma enrolled in prospective trials.

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