Evidence-based guidelines recommend mediastinal sampling as the first invasive test in patients with suspected lung cancer and mediastinal adenopathy. The goal of this study was to assess practice patterns and outcomes of diagnostic strategies in this patient population.
We conducted a retrospective analysis of all patients in 2009 who had mediastinal adenopathy without distant metastatic disease to determine whether guideline-consistent care was delivered. Guideline-consistent care was defined as mediastinal lymph node sampling being performed as part of the first invasive procedure.
One hundred thirty-seven patients were included. Guideline-consistent care was provided in 30 cases (22%). Patients receiving guideline-consistent care had fewer invasive tests than patients with guideline-inconsistent care (1.3 ± 0.5 tests/patient vs 2.3 ± 0.5 tests/patient, respectively; P < .0001) and fewer complications (0 of 30, 0% vs 18 of 108, 17%; P = .01). Most of the complications (16 of 18) were related to CT image-guided needle biopsy. Endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA) was sufficient to guide treatment decisions without any other invasive tests in 88 patients (64%). Although not all the complications and costs due to CT image-guided biopsies could have been avoided, roughly two-thirds could have been eliminated by just changing the testing sequence.
Quality gaps in lung cancer staging in patients with mediastinal adenopathy are common and lead to unnecessary testing and increased complications. In patients with suspected lung cancer without distant metastatic disease with mediastinal adenopathy, EBUS-TBNA should be the first test.