Background: In view of the lack of consensus on the level and number of lymph nodes to be examined for accurate staging of patients with gastric cancer, our aim was to evaluate the prognostic significance of lymph node status in a large European monoinstitutional experience.
Methods: A review was made of our prospective database from 1980 to 2000, when 314 of 445 patients operated for gastric adenocarcinoma underwent radical resection (R0) with D2 lymphadenectomy. Survival was determined by the Kaplan-Meier method and differences were assessed by the log-rank test. Multivariate analysis was performed using the Cox proportional hazards model in forward stepwise regression.
Results: In 277 evaluable patients, 5-year survival was 57% (median follow-up, 48 months; range, 2-251). A total of 7668 lymph nodes were examined (median, 27; range, 11-62). The 5-year survivals according to the metastatic/examined lymph nodes ratio (N ratio) were 14%, 50%, 61%, and 82% in the group of patients with N ratio >25%, 11%-25%, 1%-10%, and 0%, respectively (P <.0001). At multivariate analysis, the N ratio was the best single independent prognostic factor (P =.000).
Conclusions: After R0 resection for gastric cancer, the N ratio is a potent prognostic factor. It should therefore be considered in the clinical decision making process.