Excellence in Thoracic Surgery

Numerous studies show that patients live longer when lung cancer surgery is performed by surgeons with specific training in thoracic surgery (see references 1 and 2 below). The difference in outcomes (treatment results) between thoracic specialists and general surgeons is particularly large in patients with other significant medical problems.

Virginia Mason, in Seattle, is a high-volume hospital for the surgical treatment of lung cancer. From 1998-2002, board-certified thoracic surgeons performed an average of 55 lung cancer surgeries each year at Virginia Mason.

This number — or volume — is important because several studies have shown improved survival for patients undergoing lung cancer surgery in a hospital that performs a high number of lung cancer surgeries (see references 3 and 4).



  1. Goodney PP, Lucas FL, Stukel TA, et al. Surgeon specialty and operative mortality with lung resection. Annals of Surgery 2005;241:179-84.
  2. Silvestri GA, Handy J, Lackland D, et al. Specialists achieve better outcomes than generalists for lung cancer surgery. Chest 1998;114(3):675-80.
  3. Birkmeyer JD, Siewers AE, Finlayson EV, et al. Hospital volume and surgical mortality in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine 2002;346:1128-37.
  4. Urbach DR, Bell CM, Austin PC. Differences in operative mortality between high- and low-volume hospitals in Ontario for five major surgical procedures: estimating the number of lives potentially saved through regionalization. CMAJ 2003;168(11):1209-14.