Background: Management of recurrent primary spontaneous pneumothorax by open surgery was considered the treatment of choice until recently. The major drawbacks of this management are the prolonged postoperative pain and cosmetic results. In the last decade, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) has replaced the routine use of open surgery. Most papers that compared limited open surgery to VATS addressed the early postoperative results, and studies that assessed the long-term results focused primarily on the rate of recurrence and pulmonary function tests. The aim of this study was to compare the outcome of minithoracotomy and VATS with emphasis on patients' long-term, subjective perspective and satisfaction. Methods: Medical records of patients with recurrent primary spontaneous pneumothorax were retrospectively reviewed. Patients who underwent surgical treatment by limited thoracotomy (63 patients) or VATS (58 patients) more than 3 years ago were enrolled. Hospital medical charts were used to compare the early postoperative results. Outpatient clinic records and a telephone questionnaire were employed to evaluate long-term results. Results: There was no mortality or major morbidity in either group, and hospitalization time was similar. Patients in the thoracotomy group needed significantly higher doses of narcotic analgesia for a longer period. There were two cases of recurrence in the VATS group (3%). Seventy-eight percent of patients in the VATS and 21% in the thoracotomy group classified their pain as insignificant a month following the operation (P < 0.05). Three years following surgery, 97% of the VATS group patients considered themselves completely recovered from the operation compared with only 79% in the thoracotomy group (P < 0.05). Nineteen percent of the thoracotomy group and 3% of the VATS group suffered from chronic or intermittent pain necessitating use of analgesics more than once a month. Thirteen percent of patients from the open procedure group required services from the pain clinic. Patients in the VATS group were, in general, much more satisfied with their operation and with the surgical scars compared with patients from the thoracotomy group. Conclusion: We recommend video-assisted surgery as the first-line surgical treatment for patients with recurrent primary spontaneous pneumothorax. This recommendation is based on its somewhat favorable early postoperative course, the superior long-term outcome, and patient satisfaction.
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