Rationale: Patients with isolated mediastinal lymphadenopathy (IML) are a common presentation to physicians, and mediastinoscopy is traditionally considered the "gold standard" investigation when a pathological diagnosis is required. Endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA) is established as an alternative to mediastinoscopy in patients with lung cancer.
Objective: To determine the efficacy and health care costs of EBUS-TBNA as an alternative initial investigation to mediastinoscopy in patients with isolated IML.
Methods: Prospective multicenter single-arm clinical trial of 77 consecutive patients with IML from 5 centers between April 2009 and March 2011. All patients underwent EBUS-TBNA. If EBUS-TBNA did not provide a diagnosis, then participants underwent mediastinoscopy.
Measurements and main results: EBUS-TBNA prevented 87% of mediastinoscopies (95% confidence interval [CI], 77-94%; P < 0.001) but failed to provide a diagnosis in 10 patients (13%), all of whom underwent mediastinoscopy. The sensitivity and negative predictive value of EBUS-TBNA in patients with IML were 92% (95% CI, 83-95%) and 40% (95% CI, 12-74%), respectively. One patient developed a lower respiratory tract infection after EBUS-TBNA, requiring inpatient admission. The cost of the EBUS-TBNA procedure per patient was £1,382 ($2,190). The mean cost of the EBUS-TBNA strategy was £1,892 ($2,998) per patient, whereas a strategy of mediastinoscopy alone was significantly more costly at £3,228 ($5,115) per patient (P < 0.001). The EBUS-TBNA strategy is less costly than mediastinoscopy if the cost per EBUS-TBNA procedure is less than £2,718 ($4,307) per patient.
Conclusions: EBUS-TBNA is a safe, highly sensitive, and cost-saving initial investigation in patients with IML. Clinical trial registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT00932854).