Pancoast tumor resection with preservation of brachial plexus and hand function

Gavin A. Davis M.B.B.S., F.R.A.C.S. and Simon Knight M.B.B.S., F.R.A.C.S.
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Object

Pancoast tumors are aggressive bronchogenic lesions of the lung apex that are rapidly fatal if untreated. Modern treatment includes induction chemotherapy and radiotherapy prior to resection, but many authors also resect the T-1 nerve root (with or without the C-8 nerve root and the lower trunk of the brachial plexus) as part of the therapy, causing significant loss of hand function in many patients. The current authors determined whether a different approach allowing preservation of the brachial plexus and hand function could be adopted without compromising patient survival. An extensive historical review of Pancoast tumors is presented as a baseline for clinical comparison.

Methods

Five patients harboring Pancoast tumors with brachial plexus involvement underwent surgery performed by both a neurosurgeon and thoracic surgeon. In all cases the tumor was resected from the brachial plexus using neurolysis while preserving the C-8 and T-1 nerve roots and lower trunk of the brachial plexus.

Results

One patient died 3 years posttreatment; the other four patients remain alive and well 2 to 5 years postoperatively. Hand function improved or remained normal in all four survivors, with postoperative intrinsic hand muscle function being Louisiana State University Medical Center Grade 5 in each patient. These results (2-year survival rate of 100%) compare favorably with the Southwest Oncology Group Data (overall 2-year survival rate of 55%; 70% in patients who had undergone complete resection). With a minimum 2-year follow-up, 80% of patients remained alive and well, with normal hand function.

Conclusions

Although this patient series is small, the findings are extremely encouraging and suggest that the described treatment paradigm preserves survival as well as hand function in patients with Pancoast tumors.

Abbreviations used in this paper:LSUMC = Louisana State University Medical Center; SWOG = Southwest Oncology Group.

Object

Pancoast tumors are aggressive bronchogenic lesions of the lung apex that are rapidly fatal if untreated. Modern treatment includes induction chemotherapy and radiotherapy prior to resection, but many authors also resect the T-1 nerve root (with or without the C-8 nerve root and the lower trunk of the brachial plexus) as part of the therapy, causing significant loss of hand function in many patients. The current authors determined whether a different approach allowing preservation of the brachial plexus and hand function could be adopted without compromising patient survival. An extensive historical review of Pancoast tumors is presented as a baseline for clinical comparison.

Methods

Five patients harboring Pancoast tumors with brachial plexus involvement underwent surgery performed by both a neurosurgeon and thoracic surgeon. In all cases the tumor was resected from the brachial plexus using neurolysis while preserving the C-8 and T-1 nerve roots and lower trunk of the brachial plexus.

Results

One patient died 3 years posttreatment; the other four patients remain alive and well 2 to 5 years postoperatively. Hand function improved or remained normal in all four survivors, with postoperative intrinsic hand muscle function being Louisiana State University Medical Center Grade 5 in each patient. These results (2-year survival rate of 100%) compare favorably with the Southwest Oncology Group Data (overall 2-year survival rate of 55%; 70% in patients who had undergone complete resection). With a minimum 2-year follow-up, 80% of patients remained alive and well, with normal hand function.

Conclusions

Although this patient series is small, the findings are extremely encouraging and suggest that the described treatment paradigm preserves survival as well as hand function in patients with Pancoast tumors.

Abbreviations used in this paper:LSUMC = Louisana State University Medical Center; SWOG = Southwest Oncology Group.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Gavin A. Davis, F.R.A.C.S., Suite 53 Neurosurgery, Cabrini Medical Centre, Malvern, Victoria 3144, Australia. email: gadavis@netspace.net.au.

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