Mediastinal lymph node status has important prognostic and therapeutic implications for nonsmall cell lung cancer patients. Consequently, an accurate pathologic assessment of mediastinal lymph nodes for metastasis is essential. Despite the significance of nodal assessment, practice patterns among surgeons vary widely. Therefore we reviewed the literature to provide evidence-based recommendations regarding the ideal means and extent of preoperative and intraoperative pathologic mediastinal lymph node staging in non-small cell lung cancer patients. We found that the most sensitive and accurate intraoperative method is a complete mediastinal lymph node dissection. Pathologic evaluation of at least 10 mediastinal lymph node from at least three stations should be performed at the time of surgery.