Adult Chest Surgery

Chapter 114. Overview 

Chest wall tumors reflect a wide range of the various musculoskeletal diseases. Their infrequency in this unique location generates a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge to the thoracic surgeon. More than half the malignant tumors of the chest wall are metastatic lesions from distant organs, carcinoma or sarcoma, or invasion from contiguous structures such as the breast, lung, pleura, or mediastinum.1 Primary malignant neoplasms include tumors that arise from the soft tissues as well as cartilaginous and bony tissue. The most common pathology is sarcoma and, less frequently, solitary plasmacytoma or lymphoma. In many series, the number of patients reported is small because of the rarity of primary chest wall malignant tumors; thus the data on these cases are limited. From these data it can be concluded that approximately 45% of primary malignant tumors arise from soft tissue sarcomas, and 55% appear in cartilaginous or bony tissue.2


The soft tissue chest wall tumor commonly presents as an enlarging mass without pain. Conversely, patients with bone tumors most often have pain as their initial complaint secondary to periosteal damage or expansion. Rapidly expanding lesions more often produce pain and favor a malignant diagnosis. The character of the pain is a persistent, dull aching sensation that is likely related to stretching of the pericostal sheath.

Constitutional complaints such as fever and malaise may accompany Ewing's sarcoma. Rarely, a benign bony lesion such as osteomyelitis or eosinophilic granuloma may present as a painful bony mass with fever and malaise. Other clinical signs and symptoms produced by chest wall and sternal malignancies are related to invasion or pressure effects that the tumor exerts on adjacent structures.

Differential Diagnosis

Chest wall masses can be divided into three main categories: malignant, benign, and nonneoplastic. More than half of all chest wall tumors represent metastases from different sites or local invasion of adjacent tumors. Primary chest wall tumors are relatively uncommon and represent only 1–2% of all primary neoplasms. Table 114-1 classifies the malignant neoplasms of the chest wall.

Table 114-1. Chest Wall and Sternal Malignancies: Histologic Subtyping

Primary tumors

Bone and cartilage


  Osteogenic sarcoma

  Ewing's sarcoma

  Solitary plasmacytoma


  Askin's tumor

Soft tissue

  Malignant fibrous histiocytoma





  Desmoid (low-grade fibrosarcoma)



Local invasion of adjacent tumors





Skin (melanoma)

Metastatic tumors




Benign tumors comprise approximately half the primary neoplasms of the chest wall. The most common benign neoplasms in the chest wall are osteochondroma and chondroma. Osteochondroma is the most common benign rib neoplasm and accounts for nearly 50% of this group. It is usually asymptomatic and does not mandate removal. Chondromas usually occur anteriorly at the costochondral junction. The chondroma commonly presents as a slowly enlarging mass that may range from slightly painful to not painful at all. It is impossible to differentiate a chondroma from a chondrosarcoma on clinical and radiographic examination, and microscopic differentiation can be extremely difficult. Therefore, wide surgical excision is recommended for these tumors.

Nonneoplastic conditions include inflammations and cysts. Fibrous dysplasia is a cystic, nonneoplastic lesion characterized by fibrous replacement of the medullary cavity of the rib. It usually manifests as a slowly enlarging, nonpainful mass in the posterolateral rib cage. Excision is not indicated unless it enlarges and becomes painful.

The evaluation of patients with chest wall masses should include a careful history and physical examination, followed by plain chest x-ray. Particular attention should be paid when there is a history of previous malignancies or if there are recognized risk factors for soft tissue and bone sarcomas. These factors include previous radiation therapy, exposure to chemicals (e.g., vinyl chloride and arsenic), immunodeficiency, prior injury (e.g., scars and burns), chronic tissue irritation (e.g., foreign-body implants), neurofibromatosis, Paget's disease, bone infarcts, and genetic cancer syndromes (e.g., hereditary retinoblastoma, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and Gardner's syndrome). In most patients, however, no specific etiology can be identified.


CT Scanning and MRI

CT scanning and MRI play complementary roles in the evaluation of chest wall masses. CT scanning is faster and less expensive and more accurately demonstrates cortical bone distraction from masses arising in the ribs. MRI, on the other hand, is better for depicting infiltration of bone marrow and evaluating the extent of intraspinal and soft tissue involvement. The choice of technique, CT scanning versus MRI, often depends on the clinical question being addressed. CT scanning of the chest is necessary to rule out metastatic disease.

Molecular Imaging

The exact role of PET scanning and combined CT/PET scanning in the diagnosis and management of chest wall malignancies has not been investigated. Substantial evidence supports their use in soft tissue and cartilage sarcoma, however, because PET and CT/PET scanning can delineate both the extent of disease and the biologic heterogeneity that can exist between and within sarcoma. PET and CT/PET scanning also are useful in patient management as tools for biopsy guidance, whole-body staging, therapeutic response assessment, and evaluation of residual mass lesions after treatment. [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose-PET scanning was found to be a useful method for predicting outcome in patients with high-grade extremity soft tissue sarcomas treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy3 and a useful prognostic parameter in patients with resectable soft tissue sarcoma.4[18F]fluorodeoxyglucose-PET scanning may aid tumor grading but offers inadequate discrimination between low-grade tumors and benign lesions.

Tissue Diagnosis

While obtaining tissue for diagnosis, there are several pitfalls to keep in mind. The skin incision or the Tru-Cut needle tract must not jeopardize subsequent skin flaps. Hematoma must be avoided because it may propel sarcoma cells into and along soft tissue planes. The biopsy must be adequate for pathologic study. Necrotic tissue, hematoma, or inflammatory tissue may be submitted rather than tumor tissue. If the tissue specimen seems inadequate, a frozen section to confirm the cancerous tissue may be helpful.


Percutaneous core needle biopsy was found to be effective and safe for the diagnosis of musculoskeletal masses.5 It can be performed either by palpation or using image-guided procedures, that is, CT scan, fluoroscopy, or ultrasonography. Welker and colleagues found that CT-guided biopsy permitted 88% of the patients with suspected sarcomas to undergo a single needle biopsy procedure before the initiation of definitive treatment.5 Only 7.4% of the masses in their study required open biopsy. Besides being cost-effective, core needle biopsy limits the size of the biopsy tract that must be removed at the time of definitive wide or radical excision. If neoadjuvant therapy is planned, the treatment can be given immediately without waiting for wound healing. It should be emphasized that while evaluating a patient with previous malignancy for suspected chest wall metastasis, fine-needle aspiration should be sufficient for making a diagnosis.


For tumors with unusual histologic patterns, it is important for the pathologist to know whether these patterns are present throughout the whole lesion or if they are confined to small areas of the tumor. In these cases, open biopsy will be more informative. Open biopsy also appears to be superior for the diagnosis of cystic bone lesions. These lesions contain substantial amounts of fluid, blood, and necrotic material that are not diagnostic. A biopsy specimen from the wall of the lesion therefore is needed. The biopsy site must be planned to permit complete excision of its scar with the primary tumor.



Chondrosarcoma is the most common primary malignant bone tumor of the chest wall. It is more common in males and in the age group of 30–60 years. It usually presents on the anterior chest wall, arising from the costochondral arches or sternum. It may occur as the result of malignant degeneration of a benign chondroma. Both chondrosarcomas and benign chondromas present as painful, slow-growing, hard, fixed, and nontender anterior chest wall masses. Radiologic features of both tumors may be indistinguishable; therefore, a histologic diagnosis is required to assess malignancy. Chondrosarcoma has the appearance of a large expanding mass containing chondroid-type calcifications accompanied by a significant soft tissue component that causes distraction of the bone (Fig. 114-1). Current therapy for chondrosarcoma requires adequate surgical excision with a margin of at least 4 cm. Chemotherapy is ineffective, and radiation therapy is used only for patients with tumors that are either not amenable to surgical resection or have positive resection margins. In the Mayo Clinic series,6 the overall survival rate at 5 years was 92%. Inadequate surgical margins of resection were associated with a significantly decreased overall survival and a higher chance of local recurrence.

Figure 114-1.


Chest wall chondrosarcoma in a 62-year-old man. A. Nonenhanced CT scan shows a large mass that arises from the costochondral junction. The mass extends into the subcutaneous tissue and compresses and displaces the heart. B. Axial gadolinium-enhanced T1-weighted MRIs show that the mass is heterogeneous and enhances. (Reproduced with permission from Gladish GW, Slaboff ABM, Munden RF, et al: Primary thoracic sarcomas. Radiographics 22:621–37, 2002.)


Osteosarcoma is much less common than chondrosarcoma among primary bony chest wall malignancies. Although osteosarcoma represents the most common primary malignant tumor arising in bone, only 3% arise from the chest wall (Fig. 114-2). Osteosarcomas occur in a bimodal age distribution. Adolescents and young adults are affected most commonly, with a smaller subgroup of patients developing osteosarcoma after age 40. It commonly presents as a rapidly enlarging, painful mass. In older patients, secondary osteosarcoma may develop in preexisting diseases of the bone, such as Paget's disease, bone infarction, sites of previous radiation, and so forth. Metastatic disease (lung mostly) is present in one-third of patients at initial presentation, and over two-thirds of patients will develop metastases at some point. For this reason, perioperative chemotherapy is standard treatment, with improved 5-year survival of up to 50% for extremity osteosarcoma. Given that primary osteosarcoma of the chest wall is such a rare tumor, it is permissible to extrapolate the survival benefit of chemotherapy from extremity osteosarcoma, with the exception that tumors presenting in diverse sites may respond differently. Radiotherapy is largely ineffective in treating osteosarcoma.

Figure 114-2.


A. Osteosarcoma in a 43-year-old man. Contrast-enhanced CT scan shows a left-sided chest wall mass with an osteoid matrix (arrow), a finding characteristic of chest wall osteosarcoma. B. Osteosarcoma in a 52-year-old woman. Contrast-enhanced CT scan shows a heterogeneous chest wall mass without an ossified matrix. (Reproduced with permission from Gladish GW, Sabloff BAM, Munden RF, et al: Primary thoracic sarcomas. Radiographics 22:621–37, 2002.)

Solitary Plasmacytoma

Plasmacytoma is a rare tumor that consists of sheets of plasma cells of variable maturity. The histologic features are indistinguishable from those found in multiple myeloma. The presence of multiple myeloma is excluded by the absence of multicentric disease and plasma cell infiltration of the bone marrow. The most common sites are the vertebral column in approximately 50% of the patients, with tumors of the ribs and sternum accounting for 10–15% of cases. It is twice as common in men, and it may occur in any age group. The most common mode of presentation in the chest wall is pain without a palpable fixed mass. Radiologic testing usually shows a solitary osteolytic or punched-out bone lesion without evidence of primary tumor. Systemic manifestations such as anemia, hypercalcemia, impaired renal function, immunoglobulinopathy, or elevated Bence-Jones protein are not expected in this disease.

The role of surgery in the management of solitary plasmacytoma of the chest wall is limited to diagnostic biopsy in most settings. Definitive local radiation is the treatment of choice, providing local control in over 90% of patients. Chemotherapy is used if there is evidence of progression to multiple myeloma, such as may occur in 75% of patients.

Ewing's Sarcoma

Ewing's sarcoma is the most common malignant tumor of the chest wall in children and young adults. It is a small round cell sarcoma that occurs primarily in flat bones and in the midshaft of long bones. Approximately 300 new cases of Ewing's sarcoma occur each year worldwide. Only 15% of these cases occur in the chest wall. It arises almost exclusively in white populations. Two-thirds of all cases of Ewing's sarcoma are seen in persons younger than 20 years of age. Over the past two decades, the 5-year survival rate has improved dramatically from 10% to 50% in different series. The improvement in survival is attributed to the availability of newer chemotherapy regimens to treat systemic disease. Most patients will develop metastasis at some point in the course of their disease. Because of the typical systemic nature of this tumor, chemotherapy alone with some form of local therapy is the standard. Shamberger and colleagues compared the completeness of resection and disease-free survival in patients undergoing initial surgical resection versus those treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by resection, radiotherapy, or both.7 Patients with positive resection margins received radiotherapy. They reported 98 patients with Ewing's sarcoma of the chest wall. Their 5-year disease-free survival was 56% and did not differ based on timing of surgery or type of local control. However, neoadjuvant chemotherapy decreased the percentage of patients needing radiation therapy. Seventy percent of the patients undergoing initial surgery received radiotherapy compared with 40% of patients who had neoadjuvant therapy and then surgery.


Among primary chest wall tumors, chest wall lymphoma is uncommon, accounting for fewer than 2% of primary tumors. Few cases of primary malignant lymphoma arising from the pleura, the rib, or the sternum have been reported. Hsu and colleagues reported their experience in seven patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma presenting as a solitary chest wall mass.8 For three patients with chest wall lymphoma as the only site of disease, complete surgical resection followed by chemotherapy was carried out with satisfactory outcome. Most of the patients had B-cell lymphoma. Histologic cell types reported by others include Hodgkin's lymphoma and other non-Hodgkin's lymphomas.

The primary treatment of choice for lymphoma with or without chest wall involvement is chemotherapy and radiation. It is debatable whether surgical resection followed by adjuvant chemotherapy can provide a survival benefit in some patients in whom the chest wall lymphoma is the only site of disease.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Primary soft tissue sarcomas of the chest wall are uncommon. Of the 8000 new cases of soft tissue sarcoma diagnosed annually in the United States, fewer than 10% arise in the chest wall. A few studies have suggested that soft tissue sarcomas of the chest wall and primary extremity sarcomas have similar prognoses. Both groups have better survival rates than observed in patients with retroperitoneal, head and neck, and visceral soft tissue sarcomas. Gross and colleagues reviewed 55 surgically treated patients with chest wall soft tissue sarcomas.9 The median age of their patients was 47.5 years, with a male predominance. Painless mass was the most common initial presentation. The median duration of symptoms was 12 months and is longer than that reported for patients with tumors in other sites. The tumor diameter in most patients was larger than 9 cm. The overall 5-year survival rate was 87.3%. The disease-free survival rates at 5 and 10 years were 75% and 64%, respectively. Tumor size less than 5 cm, low histologic grade, and wide surgical resection were determinants of a better disease-free survival.

Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma

Malignant fibrous histiocytoma is the most commonly observed soft tissue sarcoma in adults. It generally develops after irradiation therapy. Frequently, it originates from the muscles of the chest wall. It is usually a disease of advanced age and is seen during the sixth and seventh decades of life. It does not have any gender preference. In most instances, the patient is asymptomatic, and the appearance is that of a well-defined, lobulated or regular soft tissue mass. On CT scan, histiocytomas enhance heterogeneously with contrast material and rarely contain calcifications (Fig. 114-3).

Figure 114-3.


Malignant fibrous histiocytoma of the chest wall in a 76-year-old woman. A. The chest x-ray shows a large extraparenchymal mass in the right upper hemithorax. Axial 1-weighted B. gadolinium-enhanced T1-weighted C.and fat desaturation T2-weighted D. MRIs show that the mass has heterogeneous signal intensity and marked enhancement. (Reproduced with permission from Gladish GW, Sabloff BM, Munden RF, et al: Primary thoracic sarcomas. Radiographics 22:621–37, 2002.)


Rhabdomyosarcoma is a childhood tumor that has a bimodal age distribution. In adults, it is seen after age 50 and occurs more often in males. It can originate either from chest wall striated muscles or the diaphragm. Prognosis depends on the histopathologic subtype. Alveolar type has a less favorable prognosis than the embryonic and pleomorphic subtypes. Since these tumors can remain clinically silent, they may have already reached large dimensions by the time of diagnosis. There may be necrosis and cystic areas within the mass.


Fibrosarcoma originates from the connective tissue found in the chest wall. It is the most common cell type among soft tissue sarcomas of the chest wall in children and young adults. It forms a large mass, and on CT scan, foci of calcifications or ossification may be observed.

Desmoid Tumor

Desmoid tumors are low-grade mesenchymal neoplasms that fall within the spectrum of a variety of benign musculoaponeurotic fibromatoses, but with a tendency toward a high degree of local infiltration and invasion. Although the etiology is unknown, genetic predisposition in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis and association with pregnancy have been recognized. Distant spread has not been documented in long-term follow-up studies, but these tumors have a strong propensity to recur locally after resection. In a series of 53 patients who underwent resection for desmoid tumor of the chest wall, Abbas and colleagues found that the resection was complete in 44 patients.10 Five-year overall probability of developing a local recurrence was 37.5%. Positive margins at resection were significantly associated with a high risk of local recurrence (p < 0.0001). Radiation therapy might have a complementary role in positive margin resection. Patients who have multiple locoregional recurrences despite adequate local therapy are considered for systemic therapy. Additional indications for systemic therapy include unresectable tumors. Options for systemic therapy include anti-inflammatory agents, hormonal agents (e.g., antiestrogens and androgens), systemic chemotherapy, and investigational agents (e.g., imatinib mesylate).

Radiation-Induced Sarcomas

Sarcomas are a rare but recognized complication of radiotherapy for chest malignancies and are associated with poor prognosis. In 1948, Cahan and colleagues established the criteria for the diagnosis of radiation-induced sarcoma (RIS).11 These criteria are still in use today and include (1) history of radiotherapy, (2) asymptomatic latency period of several years, (3) occurrence of sarcoma within a previously irradiated field, and (4) histologic confirmation of the sarcomatous nature of the postirradiation lesion. The incidence of RIS is considered to be associated with radiotherapy dose. A shorter latency period also was found to be associated with high-dose radiotherapy. Indications for the initial irradiation are most commonly breast carcinoma and lymphoma, but RIS may develop regardless of the initial tumor type. In a review of 351 patients with primary malignant tumors of the chest wall, Schwarz and Burt identified 21 patients with lesions (6%) arising in an irradiated field.12 A third of the patients in this study with primary osteosarcoma had a tumor arising in the field of prior irradiation (11 of 38 patients). There was no significant difference in survival between malignant chest wall tumors arising in an irradiated field and those arising de novo. The authors concluded that since the outcome after operative therapy appeared to be similar, patients with tumors arising from an irradiated field should be offered identical treatment to those with tumors arising de novo.

In a large-scale series, Kirova and colleagues reviewed records of 13,472 patients with breast carcinoma who were treated with megavoltage radiotherapy.13 Of those, 27 patients (0.2%) fulfilled the Cahan criteria. The latency period ranged from 3 to 20 years. Histologic evaluation identified most commonly angiosarcoma (48%), followed by osteosarcoma, undifferentiated sarcoma, histiocytoma, leiomyosarcomas, fibrosarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and myosarcoma. The cumulative RIS incidence was 0.07% at 5 years, 0.27% at 10 years, and 0.48% at 15 years. Standardized incidence ratios were 10.2 for irradiated patients compared with 1.3 for nonirradiated patients. The 5-year actuarial survival rate after diagnosis of RIS was 36%. Since the response to chemotherapy tends to be poor, the treatment for RIS is not different from that for other primary sarcomas and involves a wide resection.

Metastatic Tumors to the Chest Wall

Metastatic disease accounts for 20–30% of all chest wall neoplasms. It can occur within the bony thorax or the soft tissues surrounding it. Owing to advances in cancer treatment that prolong survival, there has been a noticeable increase in the prevalence of bone metastasis. Consequently, indications for surgical treatment were expanded mainly for pathologic or high-risk fractures of the limb bones and for compression fractures in the spine. The indication for surgery of a solitary metastasis for which extended survival may be anticipated is controversial. Some thoracic surgeons regard solitary metastasis as a marker for micrometastatic disease and suggest other treatment modalities, whereas others support resection for palliation and possible survival benefit. Manabe and colleagues reviewed their experience with surgical treatment of bone metastasis.14 They reported long survival for patients with metastases from breast, kidney, and thyroid carcinoma, with median survival of 56, 30, and 30 months, respectively, and short survival for those with metastases from lung and liver carcinoma (median 8 and 13 months, respectively). These findings should be considered when selecting patients for wide resection.

In a review of 703 patients who developed metastatic bone lesions after beginning treatment for breast cancer, Koizumi and colleagues found that 41% (289) had solitary skeletal metastasis.15 The sternum was the most common site for solitary skeletal metastasis (98 of 289, or 34%). The patients with solitary skeletal metastasis lived longer than those with multiple metastatic bone lesions (p < 0.001). Solitary sternal metastatic lesions remained solitary longer than solitary lesions in anatomic regions other than the sternum (p < 0.001) but did not lengthen patient survival times.

Durr and colleagues retrospectively studied the effect of surgical therapy on a series of 70 patients with breast cancer who were treated surgically for metastasis of the bone.16 Of the six patients who were radically resected for solitary bone lesions, five developed systemic progression of the disease. The authors concluded that although patients with solitary bone lesions have a better prognosis, with a 39% chance of living 5 years, radical resection does not significantly improve survival.

Fuchs and colleagues, who retrospectively analyzed the survival rate of 60 patients with solitary bony metastasis from renal cell carcinoma, came to a similar conclusion.17 Thirteen patients had wide resection, 20 had local stabilization, and 27 patients had no surgical treatment but had adjuvant treatment alone. There was no survival advantage for patients who had a wide resection of the lesion compared with patients who had intralesional resection or intramedullary stabilization alone. These results indicate that wide surgical excision of a solitary bony metastasis from renal cell carcinoma is not mandatory to improve survival. However, wide resection of metastatic lesions may be necessary to prevent local disease progression and complications.


En bloc surgical resection with negative margins continues to be the most fundamental treatment of most tumors of the chest wall. A minimum 2-cm margin is required for low-grade tumors, and a 4-cm margin with a rib above and below the tumor is required for high-grade sarcoma. Surgical planning requires a team approach that includes a thoracic surgeon and thoracic anesthesiologist and may involve plastic surgeons or spine surgeons for lesions requiring extensive soft tissue resection or vertebral body or dural sac involvement (see Chap. 119). The resection should not be compromised because of concern for closing the defect. It is recommended that a separate plastic surgery team focus on this aspect of patient care.18 Usually, posterior chest wall defects, protected by either the scapula or the posterior musculature, do not require reconstruction. Lateral and anterior wall defects need to be reconstructed to protect the underlying viscera, improve respiratory function, and for cosmetic reasons. Wide excision with clear margins is the most important prognosticator for long-term survival. An aggressive surgical approach also applies for recurrences because local relapse and pulmonary metastases remain the most common sites of treatment failure19 (Fig. 114-4).

Figure 114-4.


Truncal sarcomas: patterns of recurrence. (Used with permission from Sugarbaker P: Management of truncal sarcoma. In Malawer MM, Sugarbaker P (eds): Musculoskeletal Cancer Surgery: Treatment of Sarcoma and Allied Diseases. Boston, Kluwer Academic publishers, 2001:172.)

Adjuvant treatment with chemo- and radiation therapy is used selectively for high-grade sarcomas. It is used routinely for residual disease and positive or equivocal resection margins to gain local control and prevent distant disease. The list of agents with significant activity in soft tissue sarcomas is very short and arguably only includes doxorubicin and ifosfamide. Several other agents such as dacarbazine, cisplatin, and etoposide, to name a few, have marginal activity and are sometimes used in combination. The Sarcoma Meta-analysis Collaboration published an individual patient data meta-analysis of outcomes in 1568 patients from 14 randomized trials of Adriamycin-based adjuvant chemotherapy versus observation control.20 The median follow-up period was 9.4 years. Soft tissue sarcomas of all sites, sizes, grades, and histology were included. This individual patient data meta-analysis showed a significant improvement for adjuvant chemotherapy with respect to time to recurrence (local and distant) and disease-free survival, but only a trend for benefit in overall survival.

Radiotherapy is used mainly for local control, although benefits similar to those seen with extremity sarcoma have not been reported. Because chest wall sarcomas are rare, many of the treatment strategies are extrapolated from treatment strategies for extremity sarcomas. Although similar chemotherapy and radiation sensitivity is frequently noted, this is not always the case. For this reason, neoadjuvant chemotherapy might be considered for patients with large tumors of borderline resectability or with lesions that are known to respond to chemotherapy, such as Ewing's sarcoma, osteosarcoma, or malignant fibrous histiocytoma.

The advantages of induction therapy are that it permits the in vivo assessment of chemosensitivity, it theoretically treats occult metastasis, and it may facilitate future surgical dissections and the ability to obtain clean surgical margins if the tumor shrinks with treatment.


The approach to evaluating patients for chest wall resection and reconstruction is basically the same as that used for other major thoracic operations. Careful assessment is crucial to determining the best therapeutic option, as well as minimizing the operative risks. A thorough medical history and physical examination form the basis for any further investigation. Pulmonary function testing must be performed to evaluate patient reserves because a temporary compromise in respiratory function must be expected after the resection. A number of different techniques have been proposed to avoid paradoxical motion of the chest wall and impaired ventilation. Reconstruction with methylmethacrylate has been described in these situations and has gained increasing acceptance because it satisfies the requirements for rigidity, protection, and chest wall remodeling (see Chap. 118). However, it also has been suggested that the rigidity achieved with methylmethacrylate for chest wall reconstruction, highly desired in the early postoperative course, might adversely influence late outcome secondary to stiffness of the chest wall and late pulmonary restriction. Lardinois and colleagues investigated the impact of methylmethacrylate substitutes on chest wall integrity after extended anterolateral chest wall resection.21 At 6 months' follow-up they found that there was no significant difference between the preoperative and postoperative forced expiratory volume in 1 second and that concordant chest wall movements during expiration and inspiration were demonstrable by dynamic testing (using cine-MRI) in 92% of patients.

Patients with cardiovascular disease or known risk factors for diabetes, hypertension, or obesity; a history of smoking; or a family history of cardiovascular disease should undergo complete cardiac evaluation accordingly.

Although advanced surgical techniques, use of prosthetic materials for reconstruction, and improvements in anesthesia and postoperative care have reduced the rates of mortality and morbidity, complications occur in approximately 25% of patients. Operative mortality ranges from 0% to 4% in different series. Walsh and colleagues reported a multidisciplinary approach to primary sarcomas involving the chest wall in 51 patients requiring full-thickness resections.18 Respiratory complications occurred in 8% of patients, and wound complications occurred in 6% of the patients.

Chapelier and colleagues reviewed their experience with 38 patients with primary malignant tumors of the sternum who underwent sternal resection and reconstruction.22 A paradoxical motion occurred in two patients after total sternectomy and rigid replacement of the sternum and in one patient with subtotal sternectomy. These patients required prolonged ventilatory support and needed a tracheostomy. No flap-related complications were observed. Major septic complications occurred in four patients with methylmethacrylate reinforcement, which required removal of the composite prosthesis. Chang and colleagues from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute reported their experience with reconstruction of complex oncologic chest wall defects in 113 patients.23 Eighty-four percent of the patients achieved stable chest wall reconstruction with no complications. The most common complications were partial flap loss (necrosis) in 4%, infection in 7%, hematoma in 3%, and delayed wound healing in 2%.


Chest wall tumors are quite infrequent. Nevertheless, every thoracic surgeon will have to manage these malignancies several times over his or her career. Often treatment strategies developed for histologically similar tumors arising at other sites are applied to chest wall malignancies, given the lack of specific studies. A multidisciplinary approach is advised.



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