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Minimally invasive surgery for gastric cancer

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Background: The use of laparoscopic surgery in the treatment of gastric cancer has not yet met with widespread acceptance; thus, it should be regarded as still in the developmental phase. Nevertheless, the laparoscopic approach appears to have some valuable advantages for the management of gastric cancer patients, and it can be expected to have a dramatic impact on public health expenditures. Herein we present the results of our experience with laparoscopic and laparoscopy-assisted gastrectomies for cancer, and we discuss the role of these procedures in current surgical practice.

Methods: Between June 1993 and November 1997, we performed a total of 13 laparoscopic procedures on 13 patients affected with gastric carcinoma. There were eight male and five female patients with a mean age of 65.4 years (range, 42–78). All patients were staged preoperatively with US and CT scan and required to sign a formal consent.

Results: Altogether we performed nine D1 laparoscopic total gastrectomies, seven of which were done with a laparoscopy-assisted approach; three D2 laparoscopy-assisted total gastrectomies, associated in one case with a distal pancreasectomy; and one laparoscopy-assisted distal gastrectomy performed on a morbid obese patient. The preliminary laparoscopic staging allowed for a better definition of tumor extension and identification of undetected hepatic metastases in two patients. The mean duration of the intervention was 240 min. Blood losses were as high as 300 cc on average. We recorded one major intraoperative complication, consisting of an inadvertent injury to the proper hepatic artery, which was successfully repaired by the same laparoscopic route. The postoperative course was uneventful in all patients but one, who died of acute hepatic failure on day 6. At a mean follow-up of 27.5 months, 11 patients are still alive. Two of them have hepatic metastases and nine are disease-free.

Conclusions: Although they remain challenging procedures, laparoscopic gastrectomies appear to be oncologically adequate. We believe that a pure laparoscopic approach should be reserved for low-stage lesions (N0, up to T2), while a combined approach is preferable for locally advanced cancer (N1 or higher, T3 or higher). Much work still needs to be done to establish the optimal strategy in both open and laparoscopic surgery, but laparoscopy can be a valuable tool in the decision-making process for patients affected with gastric malignancies.

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Received: 18 March 1998/Accepted: 18 August 1998

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Azagra, J., Goergen, M., De Simone, P. et al. Minimally invasive surgery for gastric cancer. Surg Endosc 13, 351–357 (1999).

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