Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery versus sternotomy in thymectomy for thymoma and myasthenia gravis
Thymectomy involves the removal of all the soft tissue in the pre-vascular plane of the anterior mediastinum between the two phrenic nerves. Surgical success in controlling myasthenia and the most important factor influencing survival in patients with thymoma depends on complete clearance of thymic tissue. Currently there is a perception that the open (median sternotomy) approach offers better visualisation of the thymic tissue. This perceived advantage is thought to justify the invasive nature of the procedure associated with increased morbidity. Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) for thymectomy has evolved significantly over the last decade, including bilateral and unilateral VATS (either left or right) approaches. The laterality of the approach remains largely on surgeon preferences, with the decision influenced by their experience and training. VATS offers superior illumination and magnification, particularly with the availability of advanced cameras with variable angles that provide better exposure and lighting of the operative field. The use of three-dimensional-operating imaging has also revolutionised the VATS technique. VATS thymectomy is a superior and radical technique in minimising access trauma and removing all thymic tissue that may be scattered in the anterior mediastinum and cervical fat. Other advantages of VATS include less intraoperative blood loss, early removal of chest drains, less requirement for blood products, decreased inflammatory cytokine response, shorter hospital stay and superior cosmesis. There is also a decreased risk of respiratory and cardiac related complications compared to the open (sternotomy) technique. Furthermore, no significant difference has been found in long-term complications and survival rate between VATS and open approaches. Subsequently, the VATS approach should be encouraged as more surgeons are adopting the minimally invasive practice as routine.