Keith A. Delman, MD
Associate Professor, Surgery Division of Surgical Oncology Director, Carlos and Davis Center for Surgical Anatomy and Technique
Viraj Master, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Associate Chair for Clinical Affairs and Quality; Director, Clinical Research Unit
Surgical intervention is a Machiavellian endeavor: the ends justify the means. This obligates the clinician to minimize the risk of a procedure to justify the gains obtained from an intervention. Progress in medical knowledge and technology, improvements in anesthesia, and an increased understanding of the biology of disease have all led to better selection of patients, better intraoperative management, and concomitant reductions in morbidity.
These considerations come into sharp focus for clinicians who treat patients with melanoma. Despite significant advances in recent years, melanoma still lags well behind many other cancers in the options for systemic therapy for advanced disease. As a result, surgery remains an important component in the armamentarium of tools for treating patients with this malignancy.
With the completion of accrual of the Multicenter Selective Lymphadenectomy Trial- II, surgical intervention is left as the only standard therapy for patients with lymph node metastases. Despite this, as many as 50% of patients who should receive surgical lymphadenectomy do not undergo this procedure.1
A suggested motivation behind the failure to refer patients for appropriately indicated surgery is the concern about morbidity from the procedure. This is especially true for inguinal lymphadenectomy, which has reported rates of wound complications above 50% in most studies.2-9
During the past 25 years, a number of methods have been implemented to reduce morbidity from the surgical management of regionally metastatic disease. These have included: (1) the use of sentinel node biopsy to reduce the number of patients undergoing regional lymphadenectomy; (2) novel applications of minimally invasive surgical techniques; and (3) improvement in the selection of patients for surgery. Here we highlight a novel minimally invasive approach to inguinal lymphadenectomy that, in early data, has shown reduced morbidity, oncologic outcomes similar to standard procedures, and improved patient results.VIL Promising in Groin Dissection
Videoscopic inguinal lymphadenectomy (VIL) has been developed as a minimally invasive approach to superficial groin dissection. In brief, the approach utilizes standard laparoscopic instrumentation and techniques to remove the inguinal nodal packet under videoscopic guidance. (The standard three-incision VIL technique has been described in detail elsewhere.10
The technique was first used by Bishoff in patients with penile cancer,11
and subsequent experience has shown reductions in wound-related morbidity.12-14
On the basis of this description, a research group at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University extended and modified the procedure to meet the requirements for a complete melanoma dissection, allowing it to be applied to all malignancies that may need groin dissection, inclusive of anal, vulvar, urethral, penile, and scrotal cancers. Since initiallydescribing the approach, we have performed more than 100 videoscopic lymphadenectomies. In October 2014, we reported the outcomes of the the procedure at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress (Squires et al, American College of Surgeons Surgical Forum, unpublished data).