Importance: Surgical resection remains the preferred treatment for functionally fit patients diagnosed with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Process-based intraoperative quality metrics (QMs) are important for optimizing long-term outcomes following curative-intent resection. Objective: To develop a practical surgical quality score for patients diagnosed with clinical stage I NSCLC who received definitive surgical treatment. Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective cohort study used a uniquely compiled data set of US veterans diagnosed with clinical stage I NSCLC who received definitive surgical treatment from October 2006 through September 2016. The data were analyzed from April 1 to September 1, 2022. Based on contemporary treatment guidelines, 5 surgical QMs were defined: timely surgery, minimally invasive approach, anatomic resection, adequate lymph node sampling, and negative surgical margin. The study developed a surgical quality score reflecting the association between these QMs and overall survival (OS), which was further validated in a cohort of patients using data from the National Cancer Database (NCDB). The study also examined the association between the surgical quality score and recurrence-free survival (RFS). Exposures: Surgical treatment of early-stage NSCLC. Main Outcomes and Measures: Overall survival and RFS. Results: The study included 9628 veterans who underwent surgical treatment between 2006 and 2016. The cohort consisted of 1446 patients who had a mean (SD) age of 67.6 (7.9) years and included 9278 males (96.4%) and 350 females (3.6%). Among the cohort, 5627 individuals (58.4%) identified as being smokers at the time of surgical treatment. The QMs were met as follows: timely surgery (6633 [68.9%]), minimally invasive approach (3986 [41.4%]), lobectomy (6843 [71.1%]) or segmentectomy (532 [5.5%]), adequate lymph node sampling (3278 [34.0%]), and negative surgical margin (9312 [96.7%]). The median (IQR) follow-up time was 6.2 (2.5-11.4) years. An integer-based score (termed the Veterans Affairs Lung Cancer Operative quality [VALCAN-O] score) from 0 (no QMs met) to 13 (all QMs met) was constructed, with higher scores reflecting progressively better risk-adjusted OS. The median (IQR) OS differed substantially between the score categories (score of 0-5 points, 2.6 [1.0-5.7] years of OS; 6-8 points, 4.3 [1.7-8.6] years; 9-11 points, 6.3 [2.6-11.4] years; and 12-13 points, 7.0 [3.0-12.5] years; P <.001). In addition, risk-adjusted RFS improved in a stepwise manner between the score categories (6-8 vs 0-5 points, multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 0.62; 95% CI, 0.48-0.79; P <.001; 12-13 vs 0-5 points, aHR, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.31-0.49; P <.001). In the validation cohort, which included 107674 nonveteran patients, the score remained associated with OS. Conclusions and Relevance: The findings of this study suggest that adherence to intraoperative QMs may be associated with improved OS and RFS. Efforts to improve adherence to surgical QMs may improve patient outcomes following curative-intent resection of early-stage lung cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-301
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 8 2023


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