Lobectomy with complete mediastinal lymphadenectomy is considered standard for patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, the benefits of complete lymphadenectomy are unproven. There is evidence suggesting a predictable pattern of mediastinal nodal drainage. This study analyzed the frequency and pattern of mediastinal nodal disease and its impact on outcome in patients with early-stage NSCLC.
Patients with clinical N0/N1 NSCLC staged with CT scans and PET scans were identified. Disease involvement of resected nodal stations was recorded. Patterns of recurrence in patients who underwent lobectomy with complete mediastinal systematic lymph node sampling (SLNS) were compared with those who underwent lobe-specific mediastinal SLNS.
From July 2004 to April 2011, 370 patients were identified. Complete SLNS was performed in 282 patients. Fifteen patients (5.3%) in the group with complete SLNS were found to have N2 disease after pathologic evaluation. Patients with left-sided tumors were more likely to have pathologic N2 disease than were patients with right-sided tumors (P = .03). Only one patient (0.36%) had positive N2 disease in the distal mediastinum while skipping lobe-specific mediastinal nodes. In addition, patients with complete SLNS had a rate of recurrence similar to that of the group that had lobe-specific mediastinal evaluation (20.6% vs 18.2%, P = .68).
Mediastinal N2 metastases follow predictable lobe-specific patterns in patients with negative preoperative CT scans and PET scans. Lobe-specific N2 nodal evaluation results in a recurrence rate similar to that of complete mediastinal evaluation. Lobe-specific mediastinal nodal evaluation appears acceptable in patients with early-stage NSCLC.