A systematic review of robotic versus open and video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) approaches for thymectomy
Background: Median sternotomy has been the most commonly used approach for thymectomy to date. Recent advances in video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and robotic access with CO2 insufflation techniques have allowed more minimally invasive approaches. However, prior reviews have not compared robotic to both open and VATS thymectomy.
Methods: A systematic review was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines using PubMed, Embase and Scopus databases. Original research articles comparing robotic to VATS or to open thymectomy for myasthenia gravis, anterior mediastinal masses, or thymomas were included. Meta-analyses were performed for mortality, operative time, blood loss, transfusions, length of stay, conversion to open, intraoperative and postoperative complication rates, and positive/negative margin rates
Results: Robotic thymectomy is a valid alternative to the open approach; advantages include: reduced blood loss [weighted mean difference (WMD): −173.03, 95% confidence interval (95% CI): −305.90, −40.17, P=0.01], fewer postoperative complications (odds ratio: 0.37, 95% CI: 0.22, 0.60, P<0.00001), a shorter hospital stay (WMD: −2.78, 95% CI: −3.22, −2.33, P<0.00001), and a lower positive margin rate (relative difference: −0.04, 95% CI: −0.07, −0.01, P=0.01), with comparable operative times (WMD: 6.73, 95% CI: −21.20, 34.66, P=0.64). Robotic thymectomy was comparable with the VATS approach; both have the advantage of avoiding median sternotomy.
Conclusions: While randomized controlled studies are required to make definitive conclusions, current data suggests that robotic thymectomy is superior to open surgery and comparable to a VATS approach. Long-term follow-up is required to further delineate oncological outcomes.