Outcomes of Lobar and Sublobar Resections for Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer: A Single-Center Experience

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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States. Kentucky has the highest age-adjusted lung cancer rate and has one of the highest death rates from lung cancer in the country. Lobectomy is considered the standard therapy for non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), whereas sublobar resection remains an option for selected patients. We investigated outcomes in patients having standard resections for lung cancer (lobectomy) compared with those having sublobar resections in a population with high prevalence of, and with a high death rate from, lung cancer.


We studied patients having lung cancer resections at the University of Kentucky between 2002 and 2007. We reviewed the records of 222 patients who had either lobar or sublobar resections for NSCLC. This retrospective review identified key outcome variables, as well as short- and long-term survival. Propensity analysis allowed outcome comparison between patients having lobar and sublobar resections matched for preoperative variables.


Of the 222 study patients, 181 patients had lobectomies and 41 had sublobar resections. For all resections, lobectomy was associated with improved 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival rates compared with sublobar resections. Compared with patients having sublobar resections, lobectomy patients had significantly increased unadjusted perioperative morbidity (43.1% lobectomy vs 7.3% sublobar), but not mortality. After propensity analysis, sublobar resection predicted significantly reduced morbidity (6.3% vs 53.3%, P < 0.001), but not operative mortality (3.3% vs 3.3%, P = not significant), compared with lobectomy in patients matched for age, sex, cancer stage, and date of operation. Adjuvant chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy showed significantly improved long-term survival for either type of resection. Cox regression with adjustment for age, cancer stage, and postoperative complications suggested that neoadjuvant chemotherapy/radiotherapy increased long-term survival (P = 0.038, hazard ratio 0.49).


Sublobar resections for NSCLC have less morbidity compared with lobectomy, but at the cost of decreased long-term survival. These results imply that surgeons select patients for lobar or sublobar resections based on physiologic and functional parameters, and that differences in outcomes between these two groups reflect this selection bias. We suspect that these results are typical of surgical treatment of NSCLC in a heterogeneous high-risk population with a high penetration and prevalence of lung cancer.

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