The current role of mediastinoscopy in the evaluation of thoracic disease

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1999 Nov;118(5):894-9. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5223(99)70059-0.


Objective: Mediastinoscopy is a common procedure used for the diagnosis of thoracic disease and the staging of lung cancer. We sought to determine the current role of mediastinoscopy in the evaluation of thoracic disease.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of all mediastinoscopies performed by members of our service between January 1988 and September 1998.

Results: We performed mediastinoscopies on 2137 patients. A total of 1745 patients underwent mediastinoscopy for known or suspected lung cancer. In 422 of these procedures, N2 or N3 disease was identified; only 28 of these patients underwent resection. The remaining 1323 had no evidence of metastatic disease. In these patients 947 had lung cancer. Only 76 of the patients with lung cancer were found to have N2 disease at exploration. Among the 1323 patients with a negative mediastinoscopy result, 52 underwent resection of a nonbronchogenic malignancy, and 217 had resection of a benign lesion. A total of 392 patients underwent mediastinoscopy for the evaluation of mediastinal adenopathy in the absence of any identifiable pulmonary lesion. Of these, 161 had a nonbronchogenic malignancy, 209 had benign disease, and 25 had no diagnosis established; mediastinoscopy established a definitive diagnosis in 93.6% of patients. In the entire group of 2137 patients, there were 4 perioperative deaths and 12 complications. Only one death was directly attributed to mediastinoscopy. No deaths or complications occurred in patients undergoing mediastinoscopy for benign disease.

Conclusions: Mediastinoscopy is a highly effective and safe procedure. We believe that mediastinoscopy should currently be used routinely in the diagnosis and staging of thoracic diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mediastinoscopy* / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracic Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Thoracic Diseases / epidemiology