A recent study from the University of Chicago suggests that mesothelioma sufferers with minimal symptoms may wish to refrain from undergoing invasive surgery in order to ensure improved quality of life.

The study was named “Effects of Extended Pleurectomy and Decortication on Quality of Life and Pulmonary Function in patients with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma” and was published on 28th March 2015 in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

The group of Thoracic Surgeons based at the university reviewed 36 people with mesothelioma who suffered with varying degrees of symptoms and who had all undergone extended pleurectomy with decortication (EPD).

This often painful procedure involves extracting not only the thin protective membrane protecting the lung known as the “pleura” but also other tissues which are thought to be at risk of developing mesothelioma. The incurable cancer usually develops in the pleura and is thought to be caused by previous asbestos exposure only.

The experts’ aim in conducting the study was to highlight the benefits and adverse affects of EPD on mesothelioma sufferers by monitoring their overall quality of life and lung function.

The conclusions were revealing in that 17 of the 36 reviewed patients had a performance status of zero before undergoing surgery. Such status means that the sufferer would only have evidence of minimal symptoms connected to the condition with good overall health.

The other 19 mesothelioma sufferers had a performance status of between 1 and 2, highlighting that their health situation was more serious, resulting in increased adverse symptoms when compared to the others assessed in the study.

Whilst EPD did seem to improve the overall health and therefore the quality of life of the mesothelioma sufferers in the performance status 1 and 2 groups, alarmingly, those who started out from a zero performance status actually suffered more adverse symptoms following the procedure.

Those most affected showed reduced lung function across various tests following surgery and, naturally, the further breathing problems resulted in further decline in quality of life for the mesothelioma patients.

The leading expert publishing the study, David Burkholder, BS, within the Division of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery stated:-

“Extended pleurectomy and decortication did not improve overall health-related quality of life and had a negative impact on pulmonary function in minimally symptomatic patients”

The outcome of the study was not all bad news for the mesothelioma sufferers however, as patients in the more severe performance status groups did experience increased improvements in their level of symptoms and overall quality of life. Such developments continued for many months post surgery, highlighting the benefits of the surgical procedure for some mesothelioma patients reviewed under the study.

It was found that those who benefited most from the surgery had relatively stable lung function test results, leading the experts to conclude that such stabilization in respiratory symptoms would not have occurred but for the surgery.

Featured image: Extended Pleurectomy and Decortication (EPD). Source: Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery


If you, a family member or colleague are concerned over asbestos exposure, contact Asbestos Justice on 0800 038 6767 for expert legal advice.

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