Scalene node biopsy in pulmonary carcinoma: when is it indicated?

Ann Thorac Surg. 1981 Apr;31(4):322-4. doi: 10.1016/s0003-4975(10)60958-7.


While there is universal agreement that palpable scalene lymph nodes should be biopsied in the preoperative evaluation of patients with carcinoma of the lung, the role of biopsy of nonpalpable scalene nodes remains unclear. This report evaluates the results of biopsy of nonpalpable scalene lymph nodes in 101 consecutive patients with bronchogenic carcinoma otherwise deemed candidates for pulmonary resection. The overall incidence of biopsy positive for metastatic disease was 8.9%. No patient with a peripheral primary lesion, regardless of size or cell type, had metastasis to scalene nodes. Six of 15 patients with centrally located adenocarcinomas showed scalene node metastasis, while only 1 of 40 patients with central squamous cell carcinomas had a positive scalene biopsy. Bilateral biopsy was no more likely to yield positive information than ipsilateral biopsy alone. We now recommend preoperative biopsy of nonpalpable scalene nodes only in patients with central lesions in whom the cell type is adenocarcinoma or unknown.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma, Bronchogenic / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology*