Robot-assisted minimally invasive thoraco-laparoscopic esophagectomy versus open transthoracic esophagectomy for resectable esophageal cancer, a randomized controlled trial (ROBOT trial)
Transthoracic esophagectomy with extended lymph node dissection is associated with higher morbidity rates than transhiatal esophagectomy. This morbidity rate could be reduced by the use of minimally invasive techniques. The feasibility of robot-assisted thoracoscopic esophagectomy (RTE) with mediastinal lymphadenectomy was assessed prospectively. This study investigated 21 consecutive patients with esophageal cancer who underwent RTE using the Da Vinci™ robotic system. Continuity was restored with a gastric conduit and a cervical anastomosis. A total of 18 (86%) procedures were completed thoracoscopically. The operating time for the thoracoscopic phase was 180 min (range, 120–240 min), and the median blood loss was 400 ml (range, 150–700 ml). A median of 20 (range, 9–30) lymph nodes were retrieved. The median intensive care unit stay was 4 days (range, 1–129 days), and the hospital stay was 18 days (range, 11–182 days). Pulmonary complications occurred in 10 patients (48%), and one patient (5%) died of a tracheoneoesophageal fistula. In this initial experience, robot-assisted thoracoscopic esophagectomy was found to be feasible, providing an effective lymphadenectomy with low blood loss. Standardization of the technique and increased experience should reduce the complication rate, which is in the range of the rate for open transthoracic dissection.