Morbidity, mortality and long-term outcome of lung cancer resections performed in palliative intent

Emanuel Palade*, Jutta Günter, Juan M.M. Gomez, Ulrich F. Wellner, Severin Schmid, Sebastian Wiesemann, Bernward Passlick

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Surgery is seldom used for palliation in advanced lung cancer and the published data on this issue are very limited. We aimed to assess the results of palliative lung resections and identify criteria to guide surgical therapy in this situation. Methods: This is a retrospective single-institution analysis of patients with palliative intended lung cancer resection. Survival analysis was performed by Kaplan-Meier method, log-rank test and Cox proportional hazards regression at a statistical significance level of P=0.05. Results: Forty-eight patients received palliative intended lung resections (31 lobectomies, 4 bilobectomies, 13 pneumonectomies) with acceptable rates of severe complications (Clavien-Dindo >IIIa 29%) and 30-day mortality (4%). The most frequent indications were infection and hemoptysis. The median survival for the entire group was 12 months (95% CI: 6.9-17.1 months). Due to unexpectedly favorable histopathologic tumor stage, a switch to curative treatment in 17 completely resected patients resulted in a 2-year survival rate of 46%. In a subgroup of 20 patients with favorable prognostic factors as identified by uni- and multivariable analysis, a median survival of 26 months was observed. Conclusions: In well selected patients with lung cancer, resection in palliative intent can offer symptom relief and even a survival benefit with acceptable morbidity and low mortality. Prognostic factors were identified and can be used to guide operative treatment. Due to the low specificity of CT and FDG-PET/ CT in the presence of inflammation or centrally located lung tumors, a large proportion of patients with lung resection in palliative intent experience a down-staging and frequently also a switch from palliative to curative treatment with additional survival benefit. Factors like expected complete resection, a squamous cell type and the ability to receive adjuvant therapy are useful to support the decision to perform palliative tumor resection.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Thoracic Disease
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)4308-4318
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)


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