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Research Snapshot: New techniques fuel improved outcomes for lung cancer surgery in Illinois


This story is part of IPHAM’s Research Snapshot series, which aims to condense cutting-edge research into a quickly digestible format. For more information, please see the source article.

By Andrew Nellis — Aug 28, 2023

Quality of care for patients who undergo lung cancer surgery in Illinois improved significantly from 2016 to 2022, due in part to the increased use of less invasive surgical techniques, according to new research from scientists at Northwestern University’s Institute for Public Health and Medicine.

The Big Picture

Lung cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers. In 2022, there were projected to be around 350 lung cancer-related deaths per day.

Surgical resection, a procedure in which the cancerous portion of the lung is removed, offers patients the best life expectancy, and surgeons are increasingly employing less invasive techniques to perform it.  

The study analyzed trends in inpatient mortality and length of stay (LOS) for lung cancer surgery in Illinois hospitals over a 78-month period.


Prof. Feinglass

“Surgical techniques are constantly evolving, and it’s essential to measure just how much they’re improving patient outcomes.”

Joseph M Feinglass, PhD, research professor of medicine
How the Study was Done

Researchers evaluated inpatient mortality and length of stay outcomes for 9,602 admissions for lung cancer surgery at 89 non-federal Illinois hospitals from January 2016 to June 2022.

By the Numbers

From 2016 to 2022, hospital mortality remained very low (0.7%).

Rates of one-day hospital stays increased from approximately 5% to 23%, and stays that lasted longer than ten days (which usually indicates significant perioperative complications) dropped from almost 18% to under 5%.

  • Robotic lobectomies increased from less than 5% of procedures to over 40%.
  • Hospitals and surgeons with higher procedure volumes had significantly better outcomes.
Monthly percent of lung cancer surgery inpatient mortality and length of stay outcomes, N-9602 admissiona at 89 non-federal Illinois Hospitals, 1/2016 — 6/2022

What’s Next?

Follow-up research is necessary to determine if perioperative improvements also lead to improved patient survival over the long term. Subsequent studies should include more detailed clinical data, such as the stage at which a diagnosis was made.

Thoughts from the Author

“Surgical techniques are constantly evolving, and it’s essential to measure just how much they’re improving patient outcomes,” said Joseph M Feinglass, PhD, Research Professor of medicine at Northwestern University and member of IPHAM’s Center for Health Services & Outcomes Research. “We found that over the course of just over six years, inpatient surgical outcomes for lung cancer in Illinois have improved significantly.”

Other authors include Ayaan Ahmed; Charles D. Logan, MD; and David D. Odell, MD, MMSc.

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