Technical advances and developments in endoscopic equipment and thoracoscopic surgery have increased the popularity of minimally invasive esophagectomy (MIE). However, there is currently no established scientific evidence supporting the use of MIE as an alternative to open esophagectomy (OE). 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 we recently reported one of the largest propensity score-matched comparison studies between MIE and OE for esophageal cancer, based on a nationwide Japanese database. We found that, in general, MIE had a longer operative time and less blood loss than OE. Moreover, compared to OE, MIE was associated with a lower rate of pulmonary complications such as pneumonia, and both methods had similar mortality rates. Although MIE may reduce the occurrence of postoperative respiratory complications, MIE and OE seem to have comparable short-term outcomes. However, the oncological benefit to patients undergoing MIE remains to be scientifically proven, as no randomized controlled trials have been conducted to verify each method's impact on the long-term survival of cancer patients. An ongoing randomized phase III study (JCOG1409) is expected to determine the impact of each method with regard to short- and long-term outcomes.
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