Study objectives: Our aim was to clarify the hypothesis that the postsurgical prognosis of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) proven by preoperative diagnostic transbronchial biopsy (TBLB) was worse than that of the patients with NSCLC determined at the time of surgery.
Design: We entered the propensity score as a continuous variable in the Cox proportional hazards model, along with the success/failure of TBLB and other covariates that were adjusted for the bias inherent to the success/failure of the TBLB examination.
Patients: Five hundred ninety-nine consecutive patients with NSCLC undergoing complete resection were divided into two groups. Pathologic diagnosis by TBLB was preoperatively determined in patients belonging to group 1 (n = 367). TBLB was unsuccessful and exploratory thoracotomy or thoracoscopy was followed by surgical resection in patients belonging to group 2 (n = 232). The overall recurrence-free survival rate was examined as the surgical outcomes.
Results: The postsurgical recurrence-free rate was significantly higher in group 2 than in group 1. Group 2 patients showed better prognosis than group 1 patients, even when the data between the two groups were adjusted by propensity score. When the groups were subdivided by the pathologic stage of disease, the subgroup consisting of group 2 patients with stage IA and IB lung cancer still showed a higher recurrence-free rate than those in group 1 by propensity score analysis.
Conclusions: The postsurgical prognosis of the patients with NSCLC was significantly better if the preoperative TBLB was unsuccessful. This result suggested that advanced NSCLC had a tendency to be diagnosed with TBLB and, possibly, that the TBLB procedure might worsen the prognosis of patients with resectable NSCLC. We suggest that intraoperative diagnosis followed by the consecutive resection of NSCLC may be beneficial for improving the surgical outcomes of NSCLC patients.