Background: The pattern of tumor spread, vis-à-vis nodal involvement and invasion of the extrapancreatic plexus (Plx), has not been thoroughly described for carcinoma of the pancreatic head area.
Methods: From 1973 to 1991, 110 patients (49 with carcinoma of the pancreatic head [Ph], 29 with distal bile duct cancer [Bi], and 32 with carcinoma of the papilla of Vater [Pv]) underwent pancreatectomy at Kanazawa University Hospital. Nodal involvement and Plx invasion were precisely evaluated by histopathologic examination.
Results: Thirty-seven (76%) of the 49 patients with Ph, 20 (69%) of the 29 with Bi, and 14 (44%) of the 32 with Pv had nodal involvement. The lymph nodes most commonly involved for Ph were the posterior pancreaticoduodenal lymph nodes (numbers 13a [superior] and 13b [inferior]), the superior mesenteric lymph nodes (number 14), the paraaortic lymph nodes (number 16), and the anterior pancreaticoduodenal lymph nodes (number 17) (13a, 51%; 13b, 47%; 14, 36.7%; 16, 18.4%; 17a, 33%; 17b, 22%). In patients with Bi, lymph nodes around the hepatoduodenal ligament (number 12) and lymph nodes numbers 13a and 14 were most commonly involved (12, 27.6%; 13a, 51.7%; 14, 34.5%). In patients with Pv, lymph node numbers 13b and 14 were most frequently involved (13b, 34.4%; 14, 15.6%). No significant correlation was noted between the tumor size and nodal involvement in these three lesions. Nodal involvement was an important prognostic factor for carcinoma of the pancreatic head area. Plx invasion in these three carcinomas was observed in 61% of patients with Ph, 29% of patients with Bi, and 3% of patients with Pv.
Conclusions: Nodal involvement and Plx invasion differed significantly among carcinomas of the pancreatic head area. We believe that nodal dissection of at least group number 14 is needed for Ph, Bi, and Pv cancers. In addition, dissection of lymph nodes of number 16 and the Plx around the superior mesenteric artery and celiac axis are needed in Ph cancer. Plx dissection of the first portion of plexus pancreaticus capitalis is needed in Bi cancer.