Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery versus open thymectomy for thymoma: a systematic review

Ashleigh Xie, Richard Tjahjono, Kevin Phan, Tristan D. Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) thymectomy is an increasingly utilized alternative to traditional open approaches for the resection of thymomas. Recent studies have suggested comparable survival and oncological efficacy as well as reduced perioperative morbidity when using the VATS approach. This current systematic review thus aimed to critically evaluate existing evidence for the efficacy and safety of VATS versus open (transsternal or transthoracic) thymectomy for thymomas.

Methods: Six electronic databases were searched from their date of inception to April 2015. Relevant studies were identified using specific eligibility criteria and data were extracted and analyzed based on predefined primary and secondary endpoints.

Results: Fourteen comparative observational studies with a total of 1,061 patients were obtained for qualitative assessment, data extraction and analysis. Five-year overall survival and 10-year recurrence-free survival was similar or higher in patients undergoing VATS compared to open thymectomy. On average, the VATS group also demonstrated reduced intraoperative blood loss (131.8 vs. 340.5 mL), shorter hospital stays (7.0 vs. 9.8 days), and lower rates of postoperative pneumonia (1.9% vs. 4.1%). The mean rate of conversion from VATS to open thymectomy was relatively low (3.1%), while 30-day mortality remained low in both the VATS and open groups (0 vs. 0.3%).

Conclusions: The current evidence suggests that VATS thymectomy for thymoma has at least equal if not superior oncological efficacy and survival outcomes, as well as reduced perioperative complications, compared to open surgery. Further adequately powered studies and future randomized trials are required to confirm these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-508
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS)
  • thymectomy
  • thymoma


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