Guidelines that recommend sleeve lobectomy as a means of avoiding pneumonectomy for lung cancer have been based on a limited retrospective series, but a large series drawn from a nationwide database in France has confirmed the preference for sleeve lobectomy because it leads to higher rates of survival, despite an increased risk of postoperative pulmonary complications.

“Whenever it is technically possible, surgeons must perform sleeve lobectomy to provide more long-term survival benefits to patients, even with the risk of more postoperative pulmonary complications,” said Pierre-Benoit Pagès, MD, PhD, and his coauthors in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (2017;153:184-95). Dr. Pagès is with the department of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the University Hospital Center Dijon (France) and Bocage Hospital.

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The study involved 941 patients who had sleeve lobectomy and 5,318 who had pneumonectomy from 2005 to 2014 for localized non–small cell lung cancer in the Epithor Project database of the French Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, for whom Dr. Pagès and his coauthors performed the study. (Epithor is short for Epidémiologie en chirugie thoracique, or epidemiology in thoracic surgery.)

Three-year overall survival was 71.9% for the sleeve lobectomy group vs. 60.8% for the pneumonectomy group. Three-year disease-free survival was 46.4% for the sleeve lobectomy group and 31.6% for the pneumonectomy group. In addition, compared with the sleeve lobectomy group, the pneumonectomy group had an increased risk of recurrence by matching (hazard ratio, 1.49; 95% CI, 1.1-2).

The researchers performed a propensity-matched analysis that favored sleeve lobectomy for early overall and disease-free survival, but the weighted analysis did not. Patients in the sleeve lobectomy group vs. the pneumonectomy group were younger (60.9 years vs. 61.9), had higher body mass index (25.6 vs. 25.1), had higher average forced expiratory volume (74.1% vs. 62.9%), and had lower American Society of Anesthesiologists scores (73.7% with scores of 1 and 2 vs. 70.8%). Sleeve lobectomy patients also were more likely to have right-sided surgery (69.6% vs. 41%) and squamous cell carcinoma (54.6% vs. 48.3%), and lower T and N stages (T1 and T2, 60.5% vs. 40.6%; N0, 40.9% vs. 26.2%).

Overall mortality after surgery was 5% in the sleeve lobectomy group vs. 5.9% in the pneumonectomy group, but propensity scoring showed far fewer postoperative pulmonary complications in the pneumonectomy group, with an odds ratio of 0.4, Dr. Pagès and his coauthors said. However, with other significant complications – arrhythmia, bronchopleural fistula, empyema, and hemorrhage – pneumonectomy had a propensity-matched odds ratio ranging from 1.6 to 7. “We found no significant difference regarding postoperative mortality in the sleeve lobectomy and pneumonectomy groups, whatever the statistical method used,” Dr. Pagès and his coauthors wrote.

The investigators had no financial relationships to disclose.