Original Article

Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic versus Open Lobectomy: Costs and Outcomes

Authors: Peter M. Rodgers-Fischl, MD, Jeremiah T. Martin, MD, Sibu P. Saha, MD


Objectives: Video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) lobectomy is considered a promising surgical therapy for the diagnosis and treatment of non–small-cell lung carcinoma. The issue of whether VATS is superior to open thoracotomy remains controversial, however. We sought to determine whether the use of VATS lobectomy for diagnosing and treating non–small-cell lung carcinoma would improve patient outcomes at our institution.

Methods: A retrospective review of electronic and paper medical charts identified 109 consecutive operations for all patients undergoing thoracotomy or VATS lobectomy performed at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. Variables of interest included operative procedure (thoracotomy vs VATS) and operative findings (pathologic stage, operative time, postoperative length of stay [LOS], time spent in the intensive care unit, postoperative complications, direct cost).

Results: The demographic characteristics of the patients of both groups were similar in terms of sex (64.6% vs 44.3% male) and age (62.4 vs 61.6 years), but not stage, which was higher in the thoracotomy group. The overall operative procedure time (170.6 vs 196.3 minutes), postoperative LOS (5.7 vs 5.5 days), number of lymph nodes sampled (6.2 vs 7.0), and time spent in the intensive care unit (2.1 vs 2.4 days) did not vary between both groups. The average cost per procedure did not vary significantly—$14,003.61 compared with $15,588.11 for thoracotomy and VATS, respectively.

Conclusions: In our study, the VATS group was associated with no reduction in postoperative LOS and a nonsignificant reduction in the amount of time spent in the intensive care unit. Postoperative perception of pain did not vary between either group. Pain perception did, however, correlate strongly with time from operation. Cost did not vary significantly between both groups, with VATS being equivalent to thoracotomy in terms of cost at our institution. In our experience, VATS is an effective, minimally invasive, and safe approach for the resection of lung nodules.

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