Comparison of robotic-assisted lobectomy with video-assisted thoracic surgery for stage IIB–IIIA non-small cell lung cancer

Chongwu Li, Yingjie Hu, Jia Huang, Jiantao Li, Long Jiang, Hao Lin, Peiji Lu, Qingquan Luo


Background: With the rapid development of surgical technics and instruments, more and more locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients are being treated by minimally invasive surgery (MIS), including video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and robotic-assisted thoracic surgery (RATS). The aim of this retrospective study was to compare the perioperative and long-term outcomes of patients who underwent lobectomy by these two surgical approaches.
Methods: We performed a retrospective review of the prospectively collected database of our hospital to identify patients with clinical stage IIB–IIIA NSCLC who underwent video-assisted thoracoscopic or robotic lobectomy. Perioperative outcomes, recurrence, and overall survival (OS) were compared.
Results: From January 2014 to January 2017, there were at total of 121 patients, including 36 robotic lobectomy patients and 85 VATS lobectomy patients. One patient (2.8%) in the RATS group and 5 patients (5.9%) in the VATS group were converted to thoracotomy (P=0.79). No perioperative death was observed in both groups. The postoperative morbidity was similar between the two groups (13.9% for RATS vs. 15.3% for VATS; P=0.84). Robotic lobectomy was associated with a shorter length of postoperative hospital stay (4 vs. 5 d, P<0.01) and more counts of lymph nodes harvested (13 vs. 10, P<0.01). The median disease-free survival (DFS) for the RATS and VATS groups were 31.1 and 33.8 months, respectively. The corresponding 3-year DFS was 40.3% in the RATS group and 47.6% in the VATS group (P=0.74). The 3-year OS was 75.7% in RATS and 77.0% in the VATS group (P=0.75).
Conclusions: For selected NSCLC patients with lymph node involvement, robotic lobectomy is safe and effective with a low complication rate and similar long-term outcome compared with VATS lobectomy. Moreover, the robotic approach resulted in shorter postoperative length of stay and greater lymph node assessment.