Context: Mediastinal nodal staging is recommended for patients with resectable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Surgical staging has limitations, which results in the performance of unnecessary thoracotomies. Current guidelines acknowledge minimally invasive endosonography followed by surgical staging (if no nodal metastases are found by endosonography) as an alternative to immediate surgical staging.
Objective: To compare the 2 recommended lung cancer staging strategies.
Design, setting, and patients: Randomized controlled multicenter trial (Ghent, Leiden, Leuven, Papworth) conducted between February 2007 and April 2009 in 241 patients with resectable (suspected) NSCLC in whom mediastinal staging was indicated based on computed or positron emission tomography.
Intervention: Either surgical staging or endosonography (combined transesophageal and endobronchial ultrasound [EUS-FNA and EBUS-TBNA]) followed by surgical staging in case no nodal metastases were found at endosonography. Thoracotomy with lymph node dissection was performed when there was no evidence of mediastinal tumor spread.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was sensitivity for mediastinal nodal (N2/N3) metastases. The reference standard was surgical pathological staging. Secondary outcomes were rates of unnecessary thoracotomy and complications.
Results: Two hundred forty-one patients were randomized, 118 to surgical staging and 123 to endosonography, of whom 65 also underwent surgical staging. Nodal metastases were found in 41 patients (35%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 27%-44%) by surgical staging vs 56 patients (46%; 95% CI, 37%-54%) by endosonography (P = .11) and in 62 patients (50%; 95% CI, 42%-59%) by endosonography followed by surgical staging (P = .02). This corresponded to sensitivities of 79% (41/52; 95% CI, 66%-88%) vs 85% (56/66; 95% CI, 74%-92%) (P = .47) and 94% (62/66; 95% CI, 85%-98%) (P = .02). Thoracotomy was unnecessary in 21 patients (18%; 95% CI, 12%-26%) in the mediastinoscopy group vs 9 (7%; 95% CI, 4%-13%) in the endosonography group (P = .02). The complication rate was similar in both groups.
Conclusions: Among patients with (suspected) NSCLC, a staging strategy combining endosonography and surgical staging compared with surgical staging alone resulted in greater sensitivity for mediastinal nodal metastases and fewer unnecessary thoracotomies.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00432640.