State of the art in surgery for early stage NSCLC—does the number of resected lymph nodes matter?

Laura Romero Vielva, Manuel Wong Jaen, José A. Maestre Alcácer, Mecedes Canela Cardona


Surgery is the treatment of choice in patients with early stage NSCLC. However, the results remain poor in these patients. Lymph node involvement is the main prognostic factor in patients with NSCLC, but there is still no clear definition of the number of nodes required to consider a lymphadenectomy as complete. Although there is no defined minimum number of lymph nodes required for a complete lymphadenectomy, there are some recommendations to perform this procedure, published by different scientific societies. Current practice in thoracic surgery regarding lymphadenectomy, differs on some points from the guidelines recommendations, with data regarding patients with no mediastinal assessment between 30-45% according to some of the published data. Different studies have probed the fact that the probability of finding a positive node increases with the number of lymph nodes analyzed. Therefore, a complete lymphadenectomy provides proper staging, which helps to identify the patient's real prognosis. Several nonrandomized studies and retrospective series have shown that survival increases in the group of patients with a higher number of lymph nodes removed. There is no contraindication to performing a complete lymphadenectomy. The increase in survival in patients with a complete lymphadenectomy may be due to more accurate staging. Therefore, complete lymphadenectomy should be mandatory even in early stage patients.