Efficacy and Cost of Awake Thoracoscopy and Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery in the Undiagnosed Pleural Effusion
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BACKGROUND: The study aim is to compare the diagnostic yield, safety, and cost of outpatient awake thoracoscopy (AT) with video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) pleural biopsy in undiagnosed pleural effusions. METHODS: The diagnostic yield of pleural biopsy performed by AT or VATS in patients with undiagnosed exudative pleural effusions at a tertiary thoracic surgery center in Canada between 2011 and 2015 was retrospectively evaluated. Test sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were compared. Procedure safety, hospital length of stay, additional pleural-based interventions, and procedure-related costs were compared. RESULTS: Patients underwent either AT (n = 78) or VATS (n = 99) during the study period. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were 85%, 100%, 100%, and 79% for AT and 93%, 94%, 99%, and 76% for VATS, with no significant difference in diagnostic test performance. There was no difference in the rate of major complications (2 AT [2.6%] versus 4 VATS [4.0%], p = 0.696), minor complications (14 AT [17.9%] versus 16 VATS [16.2%], p = 0.841) or need for additional pleural-based procedures (20 AT [25.6%] versus 18 VATS [18.2%], p = 0.270). The VATS was associated with longer median hospital stay (VATS 3 days [interquartile range: 1 to 4] versus AT 0 days [interquartile range: 0 to 1], z = 6.98, p < 0.001) and a higher procedure-related average cost (VATS Canadian dollars $7,962 [95% confidence interval: $7,134 to $8,790] versus AT Canadian dollars $2,815 [95% confidence interval: $2,010 to $3,620], p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Awake thoracoscopy and VATS have similar diagnostic yield and safety profiles in the assessment of undiagnosed pleural effusions; however, AT is associated with shorter length of stay and lower average per-procedure cost. In the appropriate clinical setting, AT may be the diagnostic test of choice.
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