Short-term outcomes of robotic radical esophagectomy for esophageal cancer by a nontransthoracic approach compared with conventional transthoracic surgery

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Transthoracic esophagectomy (TTE) is believed to have advantages for mediastinal lymphadenectomy in the treatment of resectable esophageal cancer despite its association with a greater incidence of pulmonary complications and postoperative mortality. Transhiatal esophagectomy is regarded as less invasive, though insufficient in terms of lymph node dissection. With the aim of achieving lymph dissection equivalent to that of TTE, we have developed a nontransthoracic esophagectomy (NTTE) procedure combining a video-assisted cervical approach for the upper mediastinum and a robot-assisted transhiatal approach for the middle and lower mediastinum. We prospectively studied 22 accumulated cases of NTTE and verified feasibility by analyzing perioperative and histopathological outcomes. We compared this group's short-term outcomes with outcomes of 139 equivalent esophageal cancer cases operated on at our institution by conventional TTE (TTE group). In the NTTE group, there were no procedure-related events and no midway conversions to the conventional surgery; the mean operation time was longer (median, 524 vs. 428 minutes); estimated blood loss did not differ significantly between the two groups (median, 385 mL vs. 490 mL); in the NTTE group, the postoperative hospital stay was shorter (median, 18 days vs. 24 days). No postoperative pneumonia occurred in the NTTE group. The frequencies of other major postoperative complications did not differ significantly, nor were there differences in the numbers of harvested mediastinal lymph nodes (median, 30 vs. 29) or in other histopathology findings. NTTE offers a new radical procedure for resection of esophageal cancer combining a cervical video-assisted approach and a transhiatal robotic approach. Although further accumulation of surgical cases is needed to corroborate these results, NTTE promises better prevention of pulmonary complications in the management of esophageal cancer.

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