Minimally invasive resection of thymomas with the da Vinci® Surgical System

Didier Schneiter, Sandra Tomaszek, Peter Kestenholz, Sven Hillinger, Isabelle Opitz, Ilhan Inci, Walter Weder
European Journal of Cardio-thoracic Surgery 2013, 43 (2): 288-92

OBJECTIVES: The resection of thymic tumours requires completeness and may be technically challenging due to the anatomical proximity of the delicate mediastinal structures. An open approach by sternotomy is still recommended in all cases with locally extended disease. Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery is feasible, but limited by the two-dimensional vision and the impaired mobility of the instruments. We evaluated the da Vinci® Surgical System for the resection of various mediastinal pathologies, particularly thymomas.

METHODS: Among 105 patients operated on by robotic assisted thoracoscopic surgery (RATS) for mediastinal tumours between 27 August 2004 and 12 July 2011, 20 patients with thymomas were studied prospectively. Of these, 10 males with a median age of 53 years, with a well-circumscribed thymic lesion on computed tomography (CT) and a diameter of <6 cm were resected by RATS alone, and selected ones (n = 3), with a diameter of >6 cm, underwent a hybrid procedure with a contralateral thoracotomy on the side of the main tumour extension. A regular follow-up with chest CT scans was performed every 6 months.

RESULTS: Thymoma resection was complete in all patients. Partial pericardial resection was needed in five and pulmonary resection in two patients. Eighty-five percent of patients had an R0 resection. Histological classifications included thymoma WHO type A (n = 3), AB (n = 8), B1-2 (n = 5) and B3 (n = 4). All B3 thymomas received adjuvant radiotherapy. No intraoperative complications occurred. The median hospitalization time was 5 days (range 2-14 days). There were no local, but two pleural, recurrences. After a median observation time of 26 months, 19 patients (95%) are alive.

CONCLUSIONS: Well-circumscribed thymomas can be safely and completely resected with the da Vinci® Surgical System with excellent short- and mid-term outcomes. Selected tumours with large diameters may be resectable using a hybrid procedure combining RATS with a thoracotomy.

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