Background: The extent of lymph node dissection can affect tumour node metastasis staging. The resulting 'stage migration' might hamper stage-by-stage comparison between different forms of oesophageal resection. The aim of this study was to assess the diagnostic impact of extended en bloc lymphadenectomy in staging (adeno)carcinoma of the mid/distal oesophagus or gastric cardia. Methods: This was a prospective study of 74 patients (67 men and seven women; median age 63 (range 40-78) years) who underwent extended oesophagectomy between 1994 and 2000. Results: A median of 31 (range 15-78) lymph nodes was resected (and identified), with a median of 5 (range 0-31) positive nodes. Twenty-seven patients (36 per cent) had tumour-positive nodes in extended fields: 15 patients (20 per cent) in the abdomen and 15 patients (20 per cent) in the mediastinum. Subcarinal nodes were most affected (19 per cent). Extended resection led to tumour upstaging in 17 patients (23 per cent); two patients had isolated positive subcarinal nodes and 15 other tumours became M1a owing to positive nodes near the coeliac axis, hepatic artery or splenic artery. Tumour positivity in paratracheal or aortopulmonary nodes occurred in 8 per cent of patients, without influencing staging. Conclusion: Extended en bloc lymphadenectomy altered staging in 17 of 74 patients (23 per cent) with adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus or cardia, mainly into M1a owing to positive coeliac nodes (20 per cent).
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