Technical advancements and development of endoscopic equipment in thoracoscopic surgery have resulted in increase in the popularity of minimally invasive esophagectomy (MIE). However, advantages with regard to short-term outcome and oncological feasibility of MIE have not been adequately established. To date, a number of single-institution studies and several meta-analyses have demonstrated acceptable short-term outcomes of thoracoscopic esophagectomy for esophageal cancer, and the outcomes are comparable to those of conventional open esophagectomy (OE). A study group recently reported the results of the first multicenter randomized controlled trial (RCT) that compared MIE and OE. The incidence of pulmonary infection after surgery was markedly lower in the MIE group than in the OE group. Additional benefits of MIE included less operative blood loss, better postoperative patients' quality of life, and shorter hospital stay. However, the oncological benefit to patients undergoing MIE has not been scientifically proven because there have been no RCTs to verify the equivalency in long-term survival of patients undergoing MIE compared with that of patients undergoing OE. If future prospective studies indicate oncological benefits, MIE could truly become the standard care for patients with esophageal cancer.
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