Lung cancer surgery: the first 60 days. A population-based study

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The postoperative mortality following lung cancer surgery is relatively high. The purpose of the present study was to identify preoperative risk factors as well as fatal complications in 27 Norwegian hospitals.


In Norway, all clinical and pathologic departments submit reports on cancer patients to the Cancer Registry of Norway. The Registry also has a law-regulated authority to collect supplemental information regarding diagnosis, treatment, and outcome for all cancer patients from the hospitals in charge. This investigation included all patients who died within 30 and 60 days after resection of lung cancer in the period 1993-2002.


During the investigation lung cancer was diagnosed in 19,582 patients, 3224 (16.5%) were treated by surgery. The resection rate was almost similar in the two sexes, but postoperative mortality in women was less than half compared to men. Total mortality was 5% and 8% after 30 and 60 days, respectively. Bilobectomy and pneumonectomy were most risky with a mortality rate of about 10% within 60 days. In patients more than 70 years of age, there was a considerably higher frequency of pneumonectomy in men compared to women. Dominating causes of death were pneumonia with respiratory failure and cardiac events. Other identifiable causes were surgical hemorrhage and bronchopleural fistula.


In this population-based, unselected series, the postoperative mortality was relatively high, and increased markedly in patients older than 70 years. Pneumonectomy in patients older than 70 years should only be performed when heart-lung function is found to be acceptable following full pulmonary function testing and thorough preoperative assessment of cardiovascular risk factors.

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