Systematic Review of Surgical Management of Nonmetastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma with Vena Caval Thrombus

Michael Lardas, Fiona Stewart, Duncan Scrimgeour, Fabian Hofmann, Lorenzo Marconi, Saeed Dabestani, Axel Bex, Alessandro Volpe, Steven E. Canfield, Michael Staehler, Milan Hora, Thomas Powles, Axel S. Merseburger, Markus A. Kuczyk, Karim Bensalah, Peter F.A. Mulders, Börje Ljungberg, Thomas B.L. Lam

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Overall, 4–10% of patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) present with venous tumour thrombus. It is uncertain which surgical technique is best for these patients. Appraisal of outcomes with differing techniques would guide practice.

To systematically review relevant literature comparing the outcomes of different surgical therapies and approaches in treating vena caval thrombus (VCT) from nonmetastatic RCC.

Evidence acquisition
Relevant databases (Medline, Embase, and the Cochrane Library) were searched to identify relevant comparative studies. Risk of bias and confounding assessments were performed. A narrative synthesis of the evidence was presented.

Evidence synthesis
The literature search identified 824 articles. Fourteen studies reporting on 2262 patients were included. No distinct surgical method was superior for the excision of VCT, although the method appeared to be dependent on tumour thrombus level. Minimal access techniques appeared to have better perioperative and recovery outcomes than traditional median sternotomy, but the impact on oncologic outcomes is unknown. Preoperative renal artery embolisation did not offer any oncologic benefits and instead resulted in significantly worse perioperative and recovery outcomes, including possibly higher perioperative mortality. The comparison of cardiopulmonary bypass versus no cardiopulmonary bypass showed no differences in oncologic outcomes. Overall, there were high risks of bias and confounding.

The evidence base, although derived from retrospective case series and complemented by expert opinion, suggests that patients with nonmetastatic RCC and VCT and acceptable performance status should be considered for surgical intervention. Despite a robust review, the findings were associated with uncertainty due to the poor quality of primary studies available. The most efficacious surgical technique remains unclear.

Patient summary
We examined the literature on the benefits of surgery to remove kidney cancers that have spread to neighbouring veins. The results suggest such surgery, although challenging and associated with high risk of complications, appears to be feasible and effective and should be contemplated for suitable patients if possible; however, many uncertainties remain due to the poor quality of the data.

Take Home Message
Patients with nonmetastatic renal cell carcinoma and vena caval thrombus should be considered for surgical intervention if they have acceptable performance status; however, the most efficacious surgical technique or approach remains unclear.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-280
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Urology
Issue number2
Early online date23 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding/Support and role of the sponsor: None.


  • non-metastatic renal cell carcinoma
  • vena caval thrombus
  • surgical management of tumour thrombus
  • thrombectomy
  • circulatory bypass and preoperative embolization
  • systematic review


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