Context: Pelvic lymph node dissection (PLND) is considered the most reliable procedure for the detection of lymph node metastases in prostate cancer (PCa); however, the therapeutic benefit of PLND in PCa management is currently under debate.
Objective: To systematically review the available literature concerning the role of PLND and its extent in PCa staging and outcome. All of the existing recommendations and staging tools determining the need for PLND were also assessed. Moreover, a systematic review was performed of the long-term outcome of node-positive patients stratified according to the extent of nodal invasion.
Evidence acquisition: A Medline search was conducted to identify original and review articles as well as editorials addressing the significance of PLND in PCa. Keywords included prostate cancer, pelvic lymph node dissection, radical prostatectomy, imaging, and complications. Data from the selected studies focussing on the role of PLND in PCa staging and outcome were reviewed and discussed by all of the contributing authors.
Evidence synthesis: Despite recent advances in imaging techniques, PLND remains the most accurate staging procedure for the detection of lymph node invasion (LNI) in PCa. The rate of LNI increases with the extent of PLND. Extended PLND (ePLND; ie, removal of obturator, external iliac, hypogastric with or without presacral and common iliac nodes) significantly improves the detection of lymph node metastases compared with limited PLND (lPLND; ie, removal of obturator with or without external iliac nodes), which is associated with poor staging accuracy. Because not all patients with PCa are at the same risk of harbouring nodal metastases, several nomograms and tables have been developed and validated to identify candidates for PLND. These tools, however, are based mostly on findings derived from lPLND dissections performed in older patient series. According to these prediction models, a staging PLND might be omitted in low-risk PCa patients because of the low rate of lymph node metastases found, even after extended dissections (<8%). The outcome for patients with positive nodes is not necessarily poor. Indeed, patients with low-volume nodal metastases experience excellent survival rates, regardless of adjuvant treatment. But despite few retrospective studies reporting an association between PLND and PCa progression and survival, the exact impact of PLND on patient outcomes has not yet been clearly proven because of the lack of prospective randomised trials.
Conclusions: On the basis of current data, we suggest that if a PLND is indicated, then it should be extended. Conversely, in view of the low rate of LNI among patients with low-risk PCa, a staging ePLND might be spared in this patient category. Whether this approach is also safe from oncologic perspectives is still unknown. Patients with low-volume nodal metastases have a good long-term prognosis; to what extent this prognosis is the result of a positive impact of PLND on PCa outcomes is still to be determined.