Background: Little prospective, multiinstitutional data exist regarding the morbidity and mortality after major pulmonary resections for lung cancer or whether a mediastinal lymph node dissection increases morbidity and mortality.
Methods: Prospectively collected 30-day postoperative data was analyzed from 1,111 patients undergoing pulmonary resection who were enrolled from July 1999 to February 2004 in a randomized trial comparing lymph node sampling versus mediastinal lymph node dissection for early stage lung cancer.
Results: Of the 1,111 patients randomized, 1,023 were included in the analysis. Median age was 68 years (range, 23 to 89 years); 52% were men. Lobectomy was performed in 766 (75%) and pneumonectomy in 42 (4%). Pathologic stage was IA in 424 (42%), IB in 418 (41%), IIA in 37 (4%), IIB in 97 (9%), and III in 45 (5%). Lymph node sampling was performed in 498 patients and lymph node dissection in 525. Operative mortality was 2.0% (10 of 498) for lymph node sampling and 0.76% (4 of 525) for lymph node dissection. Complications occurred in 38% of patients in each group. Lymph node dissection had a longer median operative time and greater total chest tube drainage (15 minutes, 121 mL, respectively). There was no difference in the median hospitalization, which was 6 days in each group (p = 0.404).
Conclusions: Complete mediastinal lymphadenectomy adds little morbidity to a pulmonary resection for lung cancer. These data from a current, multiinstitutional cohort of patients who underwent a major pulmonary resection constitute a new baseline with which to compare results in the future.