Beginning with the widespread introduction of laparoscopic cholecystectomy in late 1989, minimally invasive surgical technique has been refined in conjunction with the development of advanced instrumentation and have subsequently been applied to increasingly complicated disease processes. Esophageal surgeons have increasingly incorporated minimally invasive surgery into their practice since the first laparoscopic fundoplication was described by Dallemagne et al. in 1991. Esophagectomy is associated with significant morbidity and mortality even in highly experienced centers. Many esophageal surgeons have had a great deal of interest in minimally invasive esophagectomy (MIE), which has the potential advantages of being a less traumatic procedure with a resultant improvement in postoperative convalescence and fewer wound and cardiopulmonary complications compared to the open approaches. Throughout the 1990s, as confidence with laparoscopic surgery of the esophagogastric junction grew, MIE was initially attempted with hybrid operations combining traditional open surgery with minimally invasive approaches. Subsequently, a totally laparoscopic transhiatal approach was described; however, this approach was perceived to be very challenging and has not gained widespread acceptance. Approaches used at present depend on cancer stage, cancer location, body habitus, and pulmonary function. For localized cancer (T1N0) or HGD, we prefer laparoscopic inversion esophagectomy (retrograde or antigrade). This approach may also be used for patients at high risk for thoracotomy. For locally advanced cancer in the middle third of the esophagus or for proximal third esophageal cancer, we prefer 3-field MIE (abdomen, and chest with neck anastomosis). For locally advanced cancer in the distal esophagus, especially in patients with a short thick neck, we prefer thoracoscopic-laparoscopic (2-field) esophagectomy (TLE).
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