Objectives: To study the clinical characteristics, treatment modalities, and outcome of patients with superior sulcus tumors who underwent surgery over a 15-year period.
Design: Retrospective clinical study.
Methods: Clinical records of all patients operated on for superior sulcus tumors by the same surgical team between 1988 and 2002 were reviewed retrospectively.
Results: Sixty-seven patients were operated on in this period. All the patients underwent en bloc lung and chest wall resection. Surgical approaches were as follows: posterolateral thoracotomy according to Paulson (n = 33), combined transcervical and transthoracic approach (n = 33), and isolated transcervical approach (n = 1). Types of pulmonary resection included lobectomies (n = 59), pneumonectomies (n = 2), and wedge resections (n = 6). Pathologic stages were IIB, IIIA, and IIIB in 49 cases, 12 cases, and 6 cases, respectively. Resection was complete in 55 patients (82%). Operative mortality was 8.9% (n = 6). Postoperative treatment was administered in 53 patients (radiotherapy, n = 42; chemoradiotherapy, n = 9; and chemotherapy, n = 2). Overall 2-year and 5-year survival rates were 54.2% and 36.2%, respectively. Five-year survival was significantly higher after complete resection than after incomplete resection (44.9% vs 0%, p = 0.000065). The presence of associated major illness negatively affected the outcome (5-year survival, 16.9% vs 52%; p = 0.043). Age, weight loss, respiratory impairment, tumor size, presence of nodal disease, and histologic type did not influence the long-term outcome. At multivariate analysis, only the completeness of resection and the absence of associated major comorbidities had an independent positive prognostic value.
Conclusions: Superior sulcus tumor remains an extremely severe condition, but long-term survivals may be achieved in a large percentage of cases. The presence of associated major illness and the completeness of resection are the two most important factors affecting the long-term outcome.