European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery vol:15 issue:6 pages:769-73
OBJECTIVE: Lymph node metastasis in carcinoma of the esophagus and the gastro-esophageal junction is often underestimated by clinical staging. It is the aim of this study to provide support to the fact that three-field lymphadenectomy leads to a better pathological staging also in adenocarcinoma. METHODS: The pattern of lymph node metastasis in adenocarcinoma of the gastro-esophageal junction (GEJ) and the distal esophagus was charted in a prospective way by using a database. An analysis was performed with regard to lymphatic spread in T3, N+ adenocarcinomas of the distal esophagus and the GEJ junction, which were treated with a radical resection including a three-field lymphadenectomy. Out of 324 patients with adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and GEJ, we selected a group of 37 patients with an adenocarcinoma T3, N+ of the distal (n = 17) or GEJ junction (n = 20), treated with a radical resection and three-field lymphadenectomy ( > 25 lymph nodes resected). RESULTS: In total, 2240 lymph nodes were removed, with a mean of 59.5 per patient. In the GEJ group the ratio of positive nodes was 15.9, in the distal 1/3 group this ratio was 12.7%. Abdominal lymph nodes were positive in all GEJ tumors and in 70% of the distal third carcinomas. Thoracic lymph nodes were positive in 40% of GEJ tumors, and 70.6% of the distal group. Cervical lymph nodes were positive in 20% of the GEJ tumors and in 35.3% of the distal tumors. In six patients only right-sided cervical nodes were affected. Three patients in the GEJ group had positive lymph nodes in the neck without any involvement of thoracic lymph nodes. CONCLUSIONS: (1) Three-field lymphadenectomy improves accuracy of staging. (2) Cervical nodes are frequently involved. (3) Especially in tumors of the GEJ there is an important skipping phenomenon, i.e. positive lymph nodes in the neck in the absence of involvement of thoracic nodes. (4) Clinical staging remains deficient in regard to lymph node metastasis, especially cervical nodes. (5) The frequent unforeseen involvement of cervical lymph nodes in adenocarcinoma of the distal esophagus and GEJ tumors makes the interpretation of results of induction chemoradiotherapy questionable. (6) For the same reason, cervical lymph nodes should be included in the radiation field in case of induction chemoradiotherapy. (7) The similar pattern of lymph node involvement suggests similar oncological behavior of adenocarcinoma of the distal esophagus and the GEJ, questioning the actual TNM classification of these tumors as gastric carcinomas.