Preoperative computed tomography–guided microcoil localization of small peripheral pulmonary nodules: A prospective randomized controlled trial

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Growing, small, peripheral, pulmonary nodules in patients at high risk for lung cancer lead to requests for video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) resection for pathologic diagnosis. The purpose of this randomized controlled trial was to determine if preoperative localization using percutaneously placed computed tomography (CT)–guided platinum microcoils decreases the need for thoracotomy or VATS anatomic resection (segmentectomy/lobectomy) for diagnosis.


Patients with undiagnosed nodules of 15 mm or less were randomized to either no localization or preoperative microcoil localization. Coils were placed with the distal end deep to the nodule and the superficial end coiled on the visceral pleural surface with subsequent visualization by intraoperative fluoroscopy and VATS. Nodules were removed by VATS wedge excision using endostaplers. The primary outcome was a VATS wedge excision for pathologic diagnosis of the nodule without the need for either thoracotomy or VATS anatomic resection.


Sixty patients were randomized and 56 underwent surgery between March 2010 and June 2012. Twenty-nine underwent microcoil localization and 27 did not. The baseline characteristics (age, sex, forced expiratory volume in the first second of expiration, nodule size/depth) were similar. The coil group had a higher rate of successful diagnosis with VATS wedge resection alone (27/29 vs 13/27; P < .001), decreased operative time to nodule excision (37 ± 39 vs 100 ± 67 minutes; P < .001), and reduced stapler firings (3.7 ± 2.0 vs 5.9 ± 31; P = .003) with no difference in total costs. Pathologic diagnoses included 14 benign nodules, 32 primary lung malignancies, and 10 metastases. There were no clinically significant complications related to the coil placement or wedge resection.


Preoperative CT-guided microcoil localization decreases the need for thoracotomy or VATS anatomic resection for the diagnosis of small peripheral pulmonary nodules.

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