Uniportal video-assisted thoracic surgery for esophageal cancer

Hasan F. Batirel


Classical video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) approach to esophageal cancer uses four incisions. The rationale is to facilitate movement of the instruments and the esophagus and also suturing during placement of a purse-string suture for an intrathoracic anastomosis. Uniportal VATS (U-VATS) is challenge for surgeons, as you have to do an esophageal mobilization and anastomosis from a single 3–5 cm incision. The incision is placed either at the 5th or 6th intercostal space close to the posterior axillary line. Esophagus is mobilized en bloc with the subcarinal and periesophageal lymph nodes. The crucial parts are inclusion of subcarinal lymph node in the specimen, mobilization of the specimen from the left main bronchus and esophagogastric anastomosis. Esophagus is encircled with a thick penrose drain and retracted anterior and posteriorly during this dissection. Once the esophagus is completely mobilized, if an intrathoracic anastomosis is to be performed, gastric conduit is pulled inside the chest in correct orientation. A linear completely stapled side to side anastomosis is performed. A thick tissue endoscopic stapler is used for posterior and anterior wall. A single chest drain is placed and incision is closed. There are several intrathoracic anastomotic techniques. All of these techniques can be applied through a uniportal approach. Side to side completely stapled anastomosis is safe, fast and easy to perform. There is a single report on esophagectomy comparing uniportal and multiportal VATS approaches in esophageal cancer which showed comparable results in terms of duration of surgery, amount of bleeding, lymph node yield and leak rates. U-VATS for esophageal cancer is emerging as a new approach and the technique is feasible and certainly future studies will show if it is reproducible and provides a clinical advantage for the patient.