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Minimally Invasive Ivor Lewis Esophagectomy

  • David R. Jones
    Correspondence
    Address reprint requests to David R. Jones, MD, Thoracic Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave, Box 7, New York, NY 10065.
    Affiliations
    Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY.
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Open ArchivePublished:January 06, 2014DOI:https://doi.org/10.1053/j.optechstcvs.2013.12.006
      Minimally invasive esophagectomy (MIE) has increasingly been adopted by thoracic surgeons in both academic and community-based practices as an alternative, if not preferred, surgical approach to resection of esophageal cancer. As advanced laparoscopic and thoracoscopic skills have developed, it is only logical that a combination of these minimally invasive approaches would be used to perform MIE. There have been several meta-analyses performed comparing open esophagectomy with MIE. In the overwhelming majority of these, MIE has been shown to result in decreased length of hospital stay, less time in the intensive care unit, equivalent (if not higher) number of lymph nodes resected, less pneumonia, and no significant differences regarding perioperative morbidity. Importantly, in these studies, there is no difference in pathologic staging between open and MIE procedures. Moreover, more patients have undergone MIE than open esophagectomy following induction therapy—confirming that MIE after induction therapy is safe. Finally, in published studies, there is no difference in overall survival following MIE and open procedures. Notably, although the difference is not statistically significant, the trend toward improved overall survival favors MIE. The observations regarding overall survival and adequacy of lymph node retrieval for MIE vs open esophagectomy remained true between Western and Eastern geographies.
      The adoption of any minimally invasive procedure requires several adaptations and refinements of the procedure. With regard to MIE, this important point is highlighted when one examines the University of Pittsburgh experience. Although they initially used MIE for transhiatal esophagectomy, the group then moved to 3-field MIE, and during the last decade they transitioned to Ivor Lewis MIE as their preferred approach. This change likely reflects the expanded experience with MIE by the group, the realization that most esophageal cancers in North America occur in the lower one-third of the esophagus (and thus do not require a 3-hole approach), and the increasing experience with advanced thoracoscopic techniques. In this article, the important technical aspects of Ivor Lewis MIE are highlighted.

      Operative Technique

      The patient is placed in the supine position with arms tucked at the sides. Standard laparoscopy port placement is performed, with a minor modification of placing two 12-mmtrocars slightly lower than the position for a standard laparoscopic foregut procedure. This facilitates mobilization of the stomach inferiorly as well as placement of the laparoscopic jejunostomy tube. We use two 5-mm trocars and a 5-mm 45° high-definition camera. Finally, through a separate fifth incision just beneath the xiphoid process, a Nathanson retractor is placed to reflect the left lateral segment of the liver superiorly and to the right (Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5, Figure 6, Figure 7, Figure 8, Figure 9, Figure 10, Figure 11, Figure 12, Figure 13).
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      Figure 1Following careful inspection of the peritoneum and liver to rule out any subclinical metastatic disease, the dissection begins by dividing the hepatogastric ligament along the lesser curvature. A harmonic scalpel (Ethicon, Somerville, NJ) is used to facilitate this dissection. The dissection continues up to identification of the right crus. One needs to identify a replaced or accessory left hepatic artery arising from the left gastric artery, which occurs in 10% of patients. The peritoneum overlying the esophagus is then incised, and the superior border of the left crus is identified. There should be no hesitation to remove a portion of the diaphragm if there is involvement by tumor, although such a finding is uncommon. This dissection exposes the right crus, the retroesophageal space, and the crural decussation.
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      Figure 2Following mobilization of the esophagus at the gastroesophageal junction, the stomach is reflected toward the liver, and the lesser sac is entered. The right gastroepiploic vascular pedicle is identified and preserved with a clear margin of 2-3 cm along the line of incision. Again, the harmonic scalpel or an alternative energy source is used to divide the greater omentum and the short gastric vessels. One needs to be thoughtful when using an energy source along the greater curvature of the stomach to avoid lateral thermal injury, which may not present until several days later. It is also important to avoid extensive handling of the gastric conduit. Bruising, serosal injuries, and gastric wall hematomas, secondary to grasping and regrasping the stomach, are unnecessary and should be avoided.
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      Figure 3Following mobilization of the greater curvature and completion of the left-sided dissection of the crura and retroesophageal space, attention then turns to identification and dissection of the left gastric artery and vein. This typically begins from the patient’s left, where the posterior aspect of these vessels is identified in the lesser sac and the dissection begins. Care is taken to avoid injury to the splenic artery and the pancreas. All nodal tissue (station 17 left gastric nodes) is swept up to be included with the specimen. Following the posterior dissection, we typically return the stomach to its normal anatomical position, complete the dissection of the left gastric vascular pedicle, and then staple and divide the vessels. This approach also allows for the identification, dissection, and removal of the station 18 (common hepatic) nodes. In addition, this approach makes application of the Endo gastrointestinal anastomosis stapler (Covidien, Mansfield, MA) much easier, as one does not need to elevate the stomach and place the stapler through the lesser sac to staple the vessels. When the left gastric vessels are divided, one can then reflect the stomach superiorly and to the left, which provides good exposure to dissect and remove any celiac lymph nodes (station 20).
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      Figure 4Following ligation and division of the left gastric artery and vein, mobilization of the esophageal hiatus is performed. We favor using the harmonic scalpel to dissect the distal esophagus, the surrounding periesophageal fat, and the station 15 diaphragmatic and station 16 paracardial lymph nodes. With the use of the high-definition camera, there is excellent visualization into the middle mediastinum. One should avoid entry into the pleural cavity, although it is not always possible to do so. If there is a large hiatal hernia, we decrease the size of the hiatus with several interrupted 0 Ethibond sutures (Ethicon, Somerville, NJ). This is done in an effort to decrease the likelihood of developing a postoperative herniation of the colon or small bowel into the thoracic cavity.
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      Figure 5We routinely perform a pyloric drainage procedure as part of our MIE approach. Before performing the pyloromyotomy, we mobilize the duodenum, as described by Kocher. Although performing a pyloromyotomy is controversial, doing so increases the operative time by very little, and we believe it facilitates postoperative emptying of the denervated gastric conduit. We typically perform this with a hook cautery, although the use of other energy sources to divide the pyloric muscle has been described. Following completion of the pyloromyotomy, a tongue of the greater omentum is harvested and is sutured over the pyloromyotomy with 2 interrupted 3-0 Vicryl sutures in a typical Graham patch fashion. One does need to be thoughtful about extending the pyloromyotomy too far distally, which can result in inadvertent mucosal injury to the duodenum. In approximately 5% of cases, a mucosal violation occurs and the pyloromyotomy is converted to a pyloroplasty.
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      Figure 6With the gastric conduit completely mobilized and the pyloromyotomy completed, attention now turns to creating the gastric conduit. To begin the initial creation of the gastric conduit, we use the harmonic scalpel to divide the lesser omentum along the distal aspect of the lesser curvature of the stomach. We typically create a conduit that has a width of 4-5 cm. To avoid causing any bruising or serosal injuries, we avoid excessive handling of the gastric conduit. Given the well-documented poor blood flow to that portion of the stomach, we also avoid using the most proximal portion of the fundus as part of our gastric conduit. An Endo GIA stapler with a staple height of 3.5-4.8 mm (depending on the thickness of the stomach) is used to divide the stomach. One needs to be mindful when making use of serial applications of the endostapler such that the apex of the jaws of the stapler is placed directly at the most distal aspect of the previously divided stomach staple line. This avoids a serrated or irregular gastric conduit staple line. We routinely leave approximately 3-4 cm of gastric conduit attached to the fundus and the associated pathologic specimen. This facilitates transposition of the stomach into the thoracic cavity later in the procedure. We do not routinely oversew the gastric staple line. If, after careful inspection, a serosal tear near the staple line is identified, we then place several interrupted sutures to cover the injury and the adjacent staple line.
      The last step of the laparoscopic portion of the MIE is to place a feeding jejunostomy. The tube is placed approximately 25-30 cm distal to the ligament of Treitz, and a Stamm procedure is used to affix the entry site to the anterior abdominal wall. To help prevent torsion of the jejunum, a single interrupted 2-0 Ethibond suture placed 4-5 cm proximal to the jejunostomy tube is used to tack the jejunum to the abdominal wall. In the case of a particularly floppy jejunal mesentery, we will place a second, more distal suture as well.
      Following completion of the laparoscopic portion of the MIE, the patient is placed in the left lateral decubitus position and prepared and draped in the usual sterile fashion. We perform an anterior access incision of 4-5 cm in the right fourth or fifth intercostal space (depending on body habitus). If this access incision is placed too low, there will be difficulty performing the stapled side-to-side anastomosis later in the procedure. A 5-mm trocar is placed in the eighth or ninth intercostal space and is used for the high-definition camera. A second 5-mm port is placed more posteriorly, in the eighth intercostal space, and finally, a 1-cm incision (without trocar) is placed in the posterior axillary line in approximately the seventh intercostal space. An Alexis wound protector (Applied Medical, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) is placed through the anterior access incision.
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      Figure 7The inferior pulmonary ligament is divided, and associated station 8 and 9 lymph nodes are removed. The lung is then retracted anteriorly to expose the esophagus and the posterior and middle mediastinum. The posterior mediastinal pleura is incised, and the entire station 7 nodal packet is dissected from the carina, including the left and right main stem bronchi. We remove all lymph nodes from this region. On the rare occasions when there are calcified nodes attached to the airway, we only take a sample of the nodes and send them for frozen section analysis; if they are benign, we then avoid further dissection. One needs to be thoughtful regarding the use of any energy source, particularly near the carina and the left main stem bronchus. We will typically excise lymph nodes and clip any bronchial arteries that are identified. We use “cold dissection” near the left main stem bronchus and avoid cautery or other energy sources.
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      Figure 8Once the subcarinal nodal dissection is completed, the esophagus is mobilized, and a quarter-in Penrose drain is placed around the esophagus to facilitate subsequent dissection of the esophagus and associated lymph nodes. The periesophageal station 8 lymph nodes are dissected off the aorta. This frequently requires opening of the left pleural cavity. Endo Clips (10 mm) or the harmonic scalpel are used to secure any feeding vessels from the aorta to the esophagus. As mobilization of the esophagus extends proximally, one needs to be aware of the location of the left main stem bronchus to avoid injury. Prior dissection of the entire carina facilitates the identification of the left main stem and foreshadows its location; for this reason, we typically perform the carinal dissection first.
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      Figure 9We routinely prophylactically ligate the thoracic duct just above the level of the diaphragm. With all periesophageal lymph nodes removed, a 2-0 Prolene suture is used to perform a mass ligation of the tissue between the aorta and the vertebral body. The knot can be tied intracorporeally or extracorporeally, depending on the surgeon’s preference or technical ease. This prophylactic ligation of a thoracic duct is routinely performed in open esophagectomies performed by us. In our experience, the incidence of chylothorax after open esophagectomy is less than 1%, and to date, we have had no incidence of chylothoraces in the cases operated by us with Ivor Lewis MIE.
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      Figure 10(A) To facilitate dissection of the esophagus above the carina, the azygos vein is divided with an Endo GIA stapler. The esophagus is dissected well up into the mediastinum. Sharp dissection or low-energy electrocautery is used at the interface of the esophagus and the membranous trachea. At the point of esophageal transection, the esophageal muscle is divided with electrocautery, and the mucosa is divided with scissors. The stomach is gently pulled into the thoracic cavity. One must be careful to avoid twisting of the gastric conduit when this maneuver is performed. The conduit is inspected for length as well as color and viability—particularly at the conduit’s most proximal portion. The gastric staple line is completed using a single application of the Endo GIA stapler. The specimen is placed in an Endo Catch bag, removed from the right hemithorax, and sent to the pathology department for frozen section analysis of margins. The conduit is then carefully placed more cephalad into the chest to the level of the resected esophagus. Given that we perform a side-to-side esophagogastric anastomosis, it is imperative that an adequate length of esophagus be dissected posteriorly to accommodate the underlying stomach. A point approximately 6-8 cm from the tip of the gastric conduit is identified, and electrocautery is used to create a 1-cm gastrotomy. An Endo GIA 60-mm stapler is then placed in the gastric conduit, and the posterior aspect of the side-to-side esophagogastric anastomosis is created. (B) We next perform the anterior portion of the anastomosis. To facilitate this, 2 lateral 2-0 Ethibond stay sutures are placed between the stomach and the esophagus. This allows inspection of the posterior portion of the anastomosis and gives the surgeon an idea of any discrepancies of length of the gastric and esophageal walls that need to be incorporated into the anterior portion of the anastomosis.
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      Figure 11To facilitate apposition of the gastric and esophageal mucosa, we then place 2-4 additional interrupted sutures. This permits a more accurate placement of the endostapler, which will be used to complete the anterior portion of the anastomosis. Using these sutures, the surgeon and first assistant gently provide traction, which elevates the anastomosis out of the middle mediastinum, slightly above the vertebral bodies and facilitates subsequent placement of the endostapler.
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      Figure 12An Endo GIA 60-mm stapler is then applied across and underneath the previously placed sutures. The stapler is fired. To complete the anastomosis, we typically use 2 applications of the endostapler.
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      Figure 13When completed, the anastomosis lies well above the transected azygos vein. To avoid problems with postoperative gastric emptying, the conduit should not be redundant and should have a “straight” alignment in the esophageal bed. Routine intraoperative endoscopy is now performed when the thoracoscope is still in place. Esophagoscopy allows inspection of the gastric mucosa, color, and the integrity of the anastomosis. We also use endoscopy to facilitate intraoperative placement of the nasogastric tube through the esophagogastric anastomosis and well into the distal gastric conduit. If a tongue of the greater omentum has been harvested en bloc with the conduit, it is used to wrap the esophagogastric anastomosis at this time. A 28-F chest tube is placed through a previously created port site.

      Postoperative Care

      Postoperatively, these patients are admitted to our thoracic surgery step-down or immediate care unit, but not to the intensive care unit. We rarely use an epidural catheter for pain control, and thus, the indwelling urinary catheter is removed on the morning of postoperative day (POD) 1. We find that we have fewer problems with postoperative hypotensive episodes when an epidural catheter is not used. In addition, when using a minimally invasive approach, it has been our impression that there are fewer intravascular volume shifts, less need for intravenous fluid boluses, and rarely a need for pharmacologic support of blood pressure. Pain control is managed with patient-controlled analgesia for the first 72 hours, intravenous nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or Tylenol, and topical Lidoderm patches. The nasogastric tube is removed on POD 1 or 2. A chest x-ray is obtained daily to assess for gastric conduit distension. Jejunal tube feeding is initiated on POD 2 at 20 mL/h and is increased to desired levels during the next 48 hours. Nocturnal (over the course of 14-16 hours) tube feeding is started on the evening of POD 4. We perform a Gastrografin swallow study on POD 4, primarily to assess conduit alignment and gastric emptying and secondarily to evaluate anastomotic integrity. Among our patients who undergo Ivor Lewis MIE, we do not perform indirect laryngoscopy to assess vocal cord function or modified barium swallow assessments of swallowing function. These studies are mandatory for our patients who have undergone 3-hole or transhiatal MIE.
      Patients are discharged home with strict recommendations not to take anything by mouth on POD 5 or 6. A completely liquid diet is begun in the clinically stable patient 14 days after operation. The outpatient transition from jejunal tube to oral feeding occurs with the aid of our nutritional consultant and thoracic surgical nurses.
      A few postoperative problems can occur. These problems center primarily on the transition from tube feeding to an oral diet, behavioral modifications by the patients regarding their diet, and care of the jejunostomy tube exit site. In our experience, there is an increased need for specialized nursing care and protocols for the patient who has undergone MIE following hospital discharge. This is likely secondary to the significantly shorter hospital stay and our preference to delay oral intake until the patient is home.
      • Ben-David K.
      • Sarosi G.A.
      • Cendan J.C.
      • et al.
      Decreasing morbidity and mortality in 100 consecutive minimally invasive esophagectomies.
      • Dantoc M.
      • Cox M.R.
      • Eslick G.D.
      Evidence to support the use of minimally invasive esophagectomy for esophageal cancer: A meta-analysis.
      • Gorenstein L.A.
      • Bessler M.
      • Sonett J.R.
      Intrathoracic linear stapled esophagogastric anastomosis: An alternative to the end to end anastomosis.
      • Javidfar J.
      • Bacchetta M.
      • Yang J.A.
      • et al.
      The use of a tailored surgical technique for minimally invasive esophagectomy.
      • Luketich J.D.
      • Pennathur A.
      • Awais O.
      • et al.
      Outcomes after minimally invasive esophagectomy: Review of over 1000 patients.
      • Weksler B.
      • Sharma P.
      • Moudgill N.
      • et al.
      Robot-assisted minimally invasive esophagectomy is equivalent to thoracoscopic minimally invasive esophagectomy.
      • Zhang J.
      • Wang R.
      • Liu S.
      • et al.
      Refinement of minimally invasive esophagectomy techniques after 15 years of experience.

      References

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