Laparoscopic Gastrectomy Safer and Equally Beneficial Compared with Open Surgery

April 17, 2009

Researchers have discovered that laparoscopic surgery may be a safer and equally beneficial alternative to the traditional route of "open" surgery for the treatment of stomach cancer.

Laparoscopic surgery may be a safer and equally beneficial alternative to the traditional route of “open” surgery for the treatment of stomach cancer, researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have discovered.

Laparoscopic gastrectomy involved removing the stomach “guided by a magnified image projected by a thin, lighted tube with a video camera at its tip,” according to the researchers. Though this procedure took longer to perform than traditional surgery, the minimally invasive technique resulted in short hospital stays, a decreased desire for postoperative pain relief, fewer post-surgical complications, and similar survival rates after 36 months.

"Our number one goal in treating patients with stomach cancer is to remove the cancer completely and safely, while preserving his or her quality of life," said Vivian E. Strong, MD, a surgeon at MSKCC who specializes in laparoscopic surgery for the treatment of stomach cancer, the study’s lead author. "Laparoscopic gastrectomy is an excellent option for certain patients with the disease, and for those patients, this approach has the same success rate as standard open surgery, with significantly fewer complications."

Half of the 60 participants in the study underwent traditional open surgery for the treatment of stomach cancer, and the other half underwent laparoscopic gastrectomy. Age, gender, and cancer stage were matched between the two groups, and the surgeries for both were performed around the same time.

Laparoscopic gastrectomy also allowed surgeons adequate lymph node retrieval, which, according to the researchers, is important in determining whether the cancer has spread. The finding addresses a continuing controversy as to whether the removal of the lymph nodes and “other oncologic features of the resection during laparoscopic gastrectomy are equivalent to open surgery.”

This "is a technically advanced surgical procedure," Dr. Strong said. "Patients considering it should go to hospitals with a high volume of gastric cancer cases, and choose a surgeon who has extensive experience performing the laparoscopic procedure."