Adequate lung cancer surgery lymphadenectomy within a statewide quality collaborative: Quality improvement in action

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The Journal of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery


OBJECTIVES: In January 2016, our statewide quality improvement collaborative focused on 3 metrics of adequate lymph node harvest during lung cancer surgery: (1) rates of pathologic examination of 10 lymph nodes or more; (2) sampling 5 or more lymph node stations or more within the hilum or mediastinum; and (3) pathologic nodal upstaging (pathologic nodal stage higher than clinical nodal stage). Unblinded, hospital-level outcomes were presented at biannual meetings, and opportunities for education or improvement were discussed. We set out to describe this quality improvement initiative and the subsequent impact on surgical lymphadenectomies statewide.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed patients undergoing lobectomy for stage IA to IIIA non-small-cell lung cancer from July 2015 to December 2020 at the 16 participating centers.

RESULTS: The study cohort included 3753 patients. The rates of examining 10 lymph nodes or more statewide increased from 215 lobectomies (44.0%) in 2015 to 522 lobectomies (78.9%) in 2020 (P < .001). Similar trends were noted statewide for 5 lymph node stations or more, which increased from 193 lobectomies (39.6%) to 531 lobectomies (80.3%) in 2020 (P < .001). The overall rate of nodal upstaging was more variable year to year and generally declined over time (P = .004).

CONCLUSIONS: Our statewide quality improvement initiative improved rates of appropriate lymph node staging for surgically treated non-small cell lung cancer compared with national rates. This work demonstrates the power that a "community of practice" philosophy can have on surgical treatment of lung cancer. Quality improvement interventions including transparent data-driven discussions and collaboration can help guide future quality improvement initiatives and should be readily transferrable to other clinical domains.

Medical Subject Headings

Humans; Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung; Lung Neoplasms; Retrospective Studies; Quality Improvement; Treatment Outcome; Neoplasm Staging; Pneumonectomy; Lymph Node Excision; Lymph Nodes

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ePub ahead of print





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