, Volume 288, Issue 3, pp 635-642,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Learning curve for laparoscopic staging of early and locally advanced cervical and endometrial cancer

Abstract

Background

Laparoscopic staging is rapidly evolving as an important surgical approach in the field of gynecology oncology. However, the specific learning curve associated with this approach remains poorly investigated. This study aimed to evaluate the learning curve for laparoscopic staging of uterine cancers.

Methods

A series of 28 consecutive laparoscopic hysterectomies with or without pelvic and/or para-aortic lymph node sampling for the treatment of early and locally advanced endometrial or cervical cancer were performed between July 2008 and January 2011. The analyses of the learning curves of the institution were performed for 20 patients who had undergone pelvic lymphadenectomy and/or para-aortal lymph node sampling. The learning curve period has also been compared with the last 26 patients who received laparotomy staging (“open” group) due to the same diagnosis and by the same surgical team. To assess the short- and long-term outcomes, we used validated questionnaires to record the clinical and follow-up results, any complaints or subjective reports from the patients, and details of their quality of life. All data were collected prospectively in a database and reviewed retrospectively. The learning was evaluated using the cumulative sum (CUSUM) method.

Results

The CUSUM learning curve consisted of two distinct phases: phase 1 (the initial 9 cases) and phase 2 (the subsequent cases) which presented the mastery phase, with the operative time of 397.7 ± 63.5 versus 300.6 ± 19.4 min (p < 0.0001). The significance of the difference between the two phases and “open” group changed in terms of number of lymph nodes retrieved, intra-operative blood loss and hospital stay. The conversion rate of phase 1 was higher than phase 2 [2 (22.2 %) respectively 1 (9 %)].

Conclusions

This series confirms previous study findings concerning the feasibility and the safety of laparoscopic staging and provides information for surgeons in single centers considering adopting an endoscopic strategy to monitor the different aspects of outcomes during the implementation process for internal benchmarking. The operative outcome of laparoscopic staging intervention improves with experience. The data reported in this article suggest that after a learning curve of 9 patients, a relevant improvement at least regarding the duration of the operation can be achieved for experienced surgeons who start performing laparoscopic staging of uterine cancers. However, due to the limited number of patients as well as number of para-aortic lymph node sampling procedures, further studies are required for firm conclusions to be drawn.

M. Tahmasbi Rad and M. Wallwiener contributed equally to this work.