Purpose: We evaluated patterns of thoracic recurrence from renal cell carcinoma (RCC) following nephrectomy as a pilot study.
Methods: Data of consecutive 39 patients who had recurrent RCC in the abdomen or thorax following curative nephrectomy were evaluated. Recurrence sites were analyzed with abdomen and chest computed tomography (CT), or positron emission tomography/CT. All patients had no metastasis before initial nephrectomy. Recurrence was classified into 3 types according to the site of initially detected recurrence: (a) abdomen-only type, (b) abdomen and thorax type, and (c) thorax-only type. Vertebral level of recurrence site in the thorax-only level was investigated. University of California Los Angeles-Integrated Staging System was utilized for risk stratification (eg, low, intermediate, and high-risk).
Results: Rate of intermediate or high risk was 89.7% (37/39). Rate of thoracic recurrence, regardless of concurrent abdominal recurrence, was 71.8% (28/39). Rate of thorax-only type was 53.8% (21/39). In thorax-only type, median vertebral level of recurrence site was T10 (range, T3-T12), and no patient with low risk had metastasis above the T10 level alone. In intermediate or high risk, 89.2% (33/37) had at least a recurrent lesion at the level of T7 or lower.
Conclusions: In low-risk patients, upper thoracic recurrence alone may be very rare after curative surgery. In majority of intermediate- or high-risk patients, initial recurrence may occur in the abdomen or lower thorax, which indicates abdomen CT covering T7 level may be an effective tool for postoperative follow-up in RCC.