Lymph Node Evaluation in Robot-Assisted Versus Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Esophagectomy for Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A Propensity-Matched Analysis
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Radical lymph node dissection (LND) along the bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) is a surgically challenging procedure with a high rate of morbidity. Here, we assessed in a retrospective manner the adequacy of LND along the RLN performed with robot-assisted thoracoscopic esophagectomy (RATE) versus video-assisted thoracoscopic esophagectomy (VATE) in patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).
This was a single-center, retrospective, propensity-matched study. ESCC patients who underwent McKeown esophagectomy and bilateral RLN LND with a minimally invasive approach were divided into two groups according to the use of robot-assisted surgery or not (RATE vs VATE, respectively). Using propensity score matching, 34 balanced matched pairs were identified. The number of dissected nodes as well as the rates of RLN palsy and perioperative complications served as the main outcome measures.
No conversion to open thoracotomy occurred in either group. Intraoperative blood loss and the need of blood transfusions did not show significant intergroup differences. The mean number of dissected nodes was similar in the two study groups, the only exception being the left RLN area. Specifically, the mean number of nodes removed from this region was 5.32 in the RATE group and 3.38 in patients who received VATE (p = 0.007). Notably, the RATE and VATE groups did not differ significantly with regard to rates of both RLN palsy (20.6 vs 29.4%, respectively, p = 0.401) and pulmonary complications (5.9 vs 17.6%, respectively, p = 0.259).
Compared with VATE, RATE resulted in a higher lymph node yield along the left RLN without increasing morbidity.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
Clip 1. Operating video illustrating the RATE approach, with a special focus on bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve lymph node dissection. (MP4 65098 kb)
Clip 2. Operating video illustrating the VATE approach, with a special focus on the potential difficulties that can be encountered during recurrent laryngeal nerve lymph node dissection on the left side. (MP4 26570 kb)
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