Objective: To propose an internationally accepted definition of complete resection in lung cancer surgery.
Material and methods: The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) Staging Committee created the Complete Resection Subcommittee in 2001 to work on an international definition of complete resection in lung cancer surgery. The previous definitions of complete resection and the rules of the International Union Against Cancer regarding the TNM residual tumor classification, together with a thorough review of the pertinent literature, and the input of the members of the IASLC Staging Committee were considered in order to get an international consensus on the definition of complete resection in lung cancer surgery.
Results: Complete resection requires all of the following: free resection margins proved microscopically; systematic nodal dissection or lobe-specific systematic nodal dissection; no extracapsular nodal extension of the tumor; and the highest mediastinal node removed must be negative. Whenever there is involvement of resection margins, extracapsular nodal extension, unremoved positive lymph nodes or positive pleural or pericardial effusions, the resection is defined as incomplete. When the resection margins are free and no residual tumor is left, but the resection does not fulfill the criteria for complete resection, there is carcinoma in situ at the bronchial margin or positive pleural lavage cytology, the term uncertain resection is proposed.
Conclusion: The proposed definitions of complete, incomplete and uncertain resections are clear and reproducible in an international setting to study their prognostic impact prospectively.