Two-Stage Indicators to Assess Learning Curves for Minimally Invasive Ivor Lewis Esophagectomy

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BackgroundMinimally invasive esophagectomy (MIE) Ivor Lewis has been increasingly performed over the last two decades. To guide the implementation of this technically demanding procedure, a comprehensive assessment of MIE-Ivor Lewis learning curves should include both the general competence to accomplish the procedure and the ability to generate oncological benefits. These objectives are believed to be associated with different phases of the learning curve.MethodsA retrospective review of the first 109 patients who underwent MIE-Ivor Lewis by a single qualified surgeon was conducted. Relevant variables were collected and assessed by regression analysis to identify suitable indicators for patient stratification and learning curve assessment. Thereafter, the differential analysis was performed among groups to validate the learning curve model.ResultsTwo variables, intrathoracic gastroesophageal anastomosis time and bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) lymphadenectomy number, which plateaued, respectively, after the 26th and 88th cases, were selected as meaningful indicators to identify different competence levels. Therefore, 109 patients were chronologically subcategorized into three groups (the first 26 MIEs as the early group, the next 62 cases as the middle group, and 21 most recent cases as the late group). Perioperative data were compared between groups with positive results to indicate a three-phase model for a learning curve for MIE-Ivor Lewis.ConclusionsAn MIE-Ivor Lewis learning curve should include three discrete phases that indicate, successively, unskilled operation (general competence to accomplish, less proficiency), surgical proficiency, and oncological efficacy. Intrathoracic anastomosis time and bilateral RLN lymphadenectomy were identified as suitable indicators delineate the different stages of an MIE-Ivor Lewis learning curve.

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