BH Kirmani, RC Rintoul, T Win, C Magee, L Magee, C Choong, FC Wells, AS Coonar
Eur J Cardiothorac Surg
OBJECTIVES: Lung cancer staging has improved in recent years. Assuming that contemporary detailed preoperative staging may yield a lower rate of stage change after surgery, we were interested to determine the impact of our lymph node dissections performed at the time of surgical resection. METHODS: We retrospectively analysed a database in our surgical unit that prospectively captured information on all patients assessed and treated for lung cancer. We reviewed the data on patients who underwent lung cancer surgery with curative intent between January 2006 and August 2010 so as to reflect contemporary practice. Prior to potentially curative treatment, patients systematically underwent staging computerized tomography (CT), integrated positron emission tomography (PET) with CT and brain imaging. Enlarged and/or PET-positive nodes were subject to invasive evaluation to establish the nodal status in line with the current guidelines. This was performed by needle aspiration or biopsy usually with ultrasound guidance, endobronchial or endo-oesophageal ultrasound with needle biopsy; mediastinoscopy; mediastinotomy; video-assisted or open surgery. RESULTS: Three hundred and twelve lung cancer resections were performed (a mean age of 68 years [range 42-86] and a male-to-female ratio of 1.14:1). Despite thorough preoperative evaluations, 25.3% of patients had a change in nodal status after lung resection and lymph node dissection; of which 20.8% of patients had a nodal status upstaging. Occult N2 disease was identified in 31 (9.9%) of 312 patients. Patients with cT1 tumours showed a nodal upstaging of 12.3% compared with 25.3% in cT2 tumours. There was no difference in the rate of N2 disease for different tumour histological types. CONCLUSIONS: Despite systematic preoperative staging, there continues to be a high rate of nodal status change following surgical resection and lymph node dissection. If considering non-surgical treatments for the early stage lung cancer, the impact of this discrepancy should be considered. If not, errors in prognosis and in determining correct adjuvant treatment may arise.