Minimally invasive esophagectomy and thoraco-abdominal two-field lymph node dissection for thoracic esophageal squamous cell carcinoma—antegrade dissection of the thoracic esophagus

Wentao Fang, Chunyu Ji, Jian Feng, Weigang Zhao, Xuefei Zhang


Background: Minimally invasive esophagectomy has been gaining increasing interest in management of early stage esophageal cancers. Similar oncological principles including radical removal of the tumor as well as systemic lymph node dissection should be observed, regardless of the surgical approach. Improvement in surgical techniques would help achieve comparable oncological outcomes while help patients benefit from the minimally invasive approach. This video introduces an antegrade dissection which is an alternative to the traditional retrograde esophagectomy for squamous cell carcinoma of the thoracic esophagus.
Methods: A 54-year-old male patient had a cT1bN0M0 (stage I) squamous cell carcinoma in the middle thoracic esophagus. The surgery selected was thoracoscopic-laparoscopic three-hole esophagectomy with thoraco-abdominal two-field lymph-adenectomy. In the chest part of the procedure, dissection was carried out in an antegrade fashion, from the apex of the chest downwards to the diaphragm. The thoracic esophagus and the tumor was resected en-bloc with surrounding connective tissue. Thorough lymph node dissection was carefully completed, with special attention paid to those along the bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerves.
Results: The patient recovered uneventfully and was discharged on postoperative day 6. Pathologic study revealed a pT1bN1M0 (stage IIb) tumor, with lymphatic involvement detected in a right recurrent nerve node.
Conclusions: With the help of minimally invasive approach, rapid recovery from the extensive esophagectomy could be expected. However, it is critically important to make sure that the same oncological principles including a radical resection margin and a thorough lymph node dissection should also be observed. For the thoracic part of the procedure, an antegrade dissection could help achieve this goal, while making surgical maneuver simpler and safer.