Background and aims: Total mesorectal excision based operations is the gold standard of care in patients with middle and lower rectal cancer, but the extent of resection varies widely. In our view, extended lymphadenectomy is unnecessary with precise total mesorectal excision, i.e., anatomically correct and sharp surgery.
Patients and methods: Sixteen patients with primary rectal cancer underwent rectal lymphoscintigraphy 1 day prior continence-preserving anterior resection with total mesorectal excision. The specimens were examined for integrity by postoperative angiography of the superior rectal artery in anteroposterior and lateral views.
Results: Twelve patients had only mesorectal lymph nodes, and four had additional extramesorectal iliac lymph nodes. The labeled lymph nodes were identified and removed perioperatively using a gamma probe. Activity was measured again in the preparations outside the situs. Histological examination showed tumor-free lymph nodes only.
Conclusion: Lymph vessels can be divided anatomically into visceral and somatic, and detection of extramesorectal lymph nodes does not call for lateral lymphadenectomy. Primary rectal cancer confined to the organ metastasizes within the mesorectum and does not invade extraregional lymph nodes. The mesorectum is the major visceral route for caudocranial metastatic spread.