The recent anatomical studies of the esophagus showed that submucosal longitudinal lymphatic vessels connect to the superior mediastinal and the paracardial lymphatics and lymphatic routes to periesophageal nodes originate from the muscle layer. Using clinical data for lymph node metastasis, we verify these anatomical bases to clarify the rational areas of lymph node dissection in esophageal cancer surgery. Analysis was performed on 356 consecutive patients who underwent esophagectomy with three-field dissection. Patients were divided into those with tumor limited within the submucosal layer and those with tumor invading or penetrating the muscle layer. Frequency of node metastasis was compared according to supraclavicular, upper mediastinum, mid-mediastinum, lower mediastinum, perigastric and celiac areas. In patients with tumor limited to the submucosal layer, node metastasis was more frequent in the upper mediastinum and perigastric area than the mid- or lower mediastinum. Even in patients with tumor located in the lower esophagus, node metastasis was more frequent in the upper mediastinum than the mid-mediastinum or lower mediastinum. In patients with tumor located in the mid-esophagus, node metastasis was more frequent in the supraclavicular area than the mid-mediastinum or lower mediastinum. In patients with tumor invading or penetrating the muscle layer, node metastasis in the mid- and lower mediastinum increased dramatically, but was still less frequent than those in the upper mediastinum or the perigastric area. Postoperative survival curves did not differ among the involved areas. The most predictive factor associated with lymph node metastasis for postoperative survival was not the area of involved nodes, but the number of involved nodes by multivariate analyses. These clinical results verify recent anatomical observations. The lack of difference in survival rates among the involved areas suggests that these areas should be staged equivalently. For adequate nodal staging, the upper mediastinum should be dissected for the lower esophageal tumor and supraclavicular areas should be dissected for the mid-esophageal tumor even in patients with tumor limited to within the submucosal layer.
© 2010 Copyright the Authors. Journal compilation © 2010, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus.