Esophageal cancer staging: Improved accuracy by endoscopic ultrasound of celiac lymph nodes

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Background. Clinical staging of esophageal cancer is required for optimal therapy but remains imprecise. Pathologic verification of involved lymph nodes could potentially direct treatment allocation. With the rising incidence of distal and gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinomas, assessment of the celiac axis lymph nodes (CLNs) becomes important because it is a common nodal drainage basin. Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) permits evaluation of CLNs and biopsy by fine-needle aspiration. This study examined the usefulness of this staging tool. Methods. A consecutive series of 62 patients with esophageal cancer considered resectable by computed tomographic scan underwent EUS for T and N staging and were retrospectively studied. A CLN visualized by EUS as greater than 5 mm was considered positive. Fine-needle aspiration of the CLN was performed routinely. Endoscopic ultrasound and computed tomographic staging were compared on the basis of pathologic verification of CLNs. Results. It was possible to evaluate CLNs by EUS in 59 (95%) of 62 patients: positive in 19, negative in 40. In EUS-positive patients, fine-needle aspiration was positive in 15, falsely negative in 2, and not done in 2. By computed tomographic scan, CLNs were negative in 57 patients and positive in 2. The CLNs were positive in 23 of 54 patients eligible for CLN pathologic verification. All positive CLNs not identified by EUS (7 false-negative EUS) were microscopic foci in one or two nodes and were associated with T3 tumors. Sensitivity and specificity of EUS were 72% and 97%, respectively, compared with 8% and 100% for computed tomographic scan. When EUS identified CLNs, fine-needle aspiration confirmed positivity in 88% of cases. Conclusions. Endoscopic ultrasound with fine-needle aspiration is useful in the detection and confirmation of CLN metastasis. In T3 tumors of the distal esophagus, a negative EUS result does not substantiate absence of CLN disease. Endoscopic ultrasound with fine-needle aspiration may be important in guiding treatment for patients with distal adenocarcinoma and documenting disease before neoadjuvant therapy.




Reed, C. E., Mishra, G., Sahai, A. V., Hoffman, B. J., & Hawes, R. H. (1999). Esophageal cancer staging: Improved accuracy by endoscopic ultrasound of celiac lymph nodes. Annals of Thoracic Surgery, 67(2), 319–321.

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