Minimally invasive thoracic surgical procedures, performed with or without the assistance of a robot, have gained popularity over the last decade. They have increasingly become the choice of intervention for a number of thoracic surgical operations. Minimally invasive surgery decreases postoperative pain, hospital stay and leads to a faster recovery in comparison with conventional open methods. Minimally invasive techniques to perform a thymectomy include video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) or robotic-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (RATS). In this study, we aim to systematically review and interrogate the literature on minimally invasive thymectomy and draw a meta-analysis on the outcomes between the two approaches.Methods
An extensive electronic health database search was performed on all articles published from inception to May 2015 for studies describing outcomes in VATS and RATS thymectomy.Results
A total of 350 patients were included in this study, for which 182 and 168 patients underwent RATS and VATS thymectomy, respectively. There were no recorded in-hospital deaths for either procedure. There was no statistical difference in conversion to open, length of hospital stay, or postoperative pneumonia. Operational times for RATS thymectomy were longer.Conclusions
The VATS and RATS thymectomy offer good and safe operative and perioperative outcomes. There is little difference between the two groups. However, there is poor evidence basis for the long-term outcomes in minimally invasive procedures for thymectomy. It is imperative that future studies evaluate oncological outcomes both short and long term as well as those related to safety.