Selective versus routine lymphadenectomy in the treatment of liver metastasis from colorectal cancer: a retrospective cohort study
© The Author(s). 2017
Received: 6 October 2016
Accepted: 31 March 2017
Published: 4 April 2017
Limited data are available on the importance of routine lymphadenectomy of the hepatoduodenal ligament in the treatment of liver metastasis from colorectal cancer in the literature.
A single center retrospective cohort study was conducted to evaluate morbidity and long-term survival in patients who had undergone selective versus routine lymphadenectomy during surgery for colorectal liver metastasis. From January 2006 to December 2009, eighty-one patients undergoing radical resection due to liver metastasis from colorectal cancer were included. The combination of two surgical teams with different approaches to hepatoduodenal ligament lymphadenectomy at our institution allowed us to select two cohorts of patients undergoing selective or routine lymphadenectomy.
No significant differences between the cohorts were found in age, American Society of Anesthesiology score or Fong’s prognostic criteria. Patients with pN+ disease had significantly inferior survival compared to patients with pN0 disease (hazard ratio [HR] = 6.33, 95% CI 2.16–18.57, p = 0.0001). No significant difference in postoperative morbidity was observed in the group undergoing routine opposed to selective lymphadenectomy (13.63% vs. 8.69%, p = 0.36). There was no difference in long-term survival between the groups (HR = 0.90, 95% CI 0.52–1.58, p = 0.70). There were also no significant differences in the subgroup of patients with pN0 stage (HR = 1.17, 95% CI 0.6–2.11, p = 0.60).
These data suggest that there is no survival benefit from the use of routine lymphadenectomy during surgery for colorectal liver metastasis, but these data should be confirmed in a prospective randomized study.
KeywordsColorectal Liver Metastasis Lymphadenectomy Survival
The liver is the most common site of metastatic spread after curative treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC), and approximately 50% of all patients with CRC will develop liver metastases . Liver resection represents the best treatment option, with a long-term survival rate of 30%. Resectability is recommended only in approximately 20% of patients, mainly due to the presence of extrahepatic disease . The infiltration of lymph nodes (LN) in the hepatic pedicle and the coeliac region is considered an extrahepatic disease, and many authors still consider its involvement to be a contraindication for liver resection, especially if they are in the coeliac region. Limited data are available on the importance of routine lymphadenectomy of the hepatoduodenal ligament in the literature. Moreover, its survival benefit for both prophylactic and therapeutic indications is not clear . To date, there have been no prospective randomized studies published on this topic. The combination of two different surgical teams with different approaches to lymphadenectomy during liver resection in CRC, at the National Cancer Institute Bratislava Slovakia (NCI), gave us the opportunity to conduct a study with the aim of evaluating the role of routine lymphadenectomy during liver resection in patients with CRC.
This retrospective cohort study was conducted to determine the influence of routine lymphadenectomy of the hepatoduodenal ligament on postoperative morbidity and long-term survival in patients with clinically negative nodal status in the hepatoduodenal ligament according to preoperative computed tomography (CT) scans.
From the patient’s medical records and the National Center of Medical Information and Population Register, we constructed specific case report forms with clinical features and survival information. These features included age, gender, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score, number and size of liver metastases, disease-free interval (from the treatment of the CRC primary tumor), level of preoperative carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), positivity of pathological nodal staging (pN+) of the primary tumor, definitive histology finding (only hematoxylin and eosin staining was used for the evaluation of nodal status), presence of postoperative complications and their classification according to the Clavien Dindo system , 30-day postoperative mortality and overall survival.
In cohort 1, no standard lymphadenectomy was performed; nodal sampling (selective lymphadenectomy) was performed only if there was a suspicion for nodal involvement according to macroscopic assessment or intraoperative palpation. In cohort 2, routine lymphadenectomy that included nodes in hepatoduodenal ligament and along the common hepatic artery, coeliac trunk and retropancreatic region was performed.
Statistical relationships were evaluated by different tests depending on the data characteristics (Kolmogorov-Smirnov, t test, Fisher-Freeman-Halton test), and Kaplan-Meier’s method and Log-rank test were used to evaluate differences between the groups in terms of survival analysis. All of the statistical hypotheses were tested with a significance level of alpha = 0.05, and the data cut-off for survival analysis was 31 May 2016. The study was approved by the institutional review board of the NCI Bratislava, Slovakia, and a waiver of consent was granted.
Cohort comparisons with no significant differences in any prognostic factors
n = 27
n = 54
Age median (min/max)
ASA score (1/2/3/4) %
Fong’s score (0–2)/(3–5) %
MTS size (mm) median (min/max)
MTS number median (min/max)
CEA level μg/l median (min/max)
pN+ primary %
disease free < 12 month %
We found a higher rate of postoperative complications in the group of patients undergoing routine lymphadenectomy (13.63%) compared to the group of patients with selective lymphadenectomy (8.69%), but this difference did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.36).
The severity of complications evaluated by Clavien Dindo classification system also showed no significant differences (p = 0.61).
The median length of follow up was 61.67 (0.33–122.93) months.
The indication for lymphadenectomy of the hepatoduodenal ligament during liver resection for CRC metastasis remains controversial. It is still unclear whether the lymph node dissection imparts a survival advantage or merely allows a more complete staging of the disease . The metastatic involvement of nodes is considered one of the worst prognostic factors [5, 6] and was once a contraindication for liver resection because the 5 year survival ranged between 0 and 4.3% [7, 8]. The location of the involved nodes also played an important role, as stated by Adam et al: for those who had metastases in the hepatic pedicle and underwent hepatectomy, the 5 year survival was better (25%) than that observed in patients with positive nodes in the coeliac and paraaortic regions (0%) . In our study, we performed en bloc lymphadenectomy, so the subclassification of nodes to different stations was not possible, but none of our node-positive patients survived for 3 years, despite the use of adjuvant chemotherapy. We can therefore confirm that nodal positivity is a negative prognostic factor: node-positive patients exhibited a median survival of 29.6 months vs. 66.97 for node-negative patients.
The overall prevalence of positive lymph nodes was reported to be 8.4%, ranging between 5.4 and 27.9% after routine lymphadenectomy and between 4.0 and 22.5% after selective lymphadenectomy. Koti et al. reported that the prevalence was not correlated to the extent or approach (routine/selective) of lymphadenectomy . In our study, the prevalence was higher in the group of patients undergoing routine lymphadenectomy compared to selective lymphadenectomy (11.11% vs. 3.7%), which can be explained by patient selection for those with cN0 stage. During the study period, the clinical positivity of extrahepatic nodes was considered a contraindication for liver resection.
Regardless of the extent of lymphadenectomy that was performed, we found equal survival in patients with and without routine lymphadenectomy (median survival 61.62 vs. 60.16 months, respectively, HR 0.90 95% CI 0.52–1.58, p = 0.7).
To evaluate the “prophylactic” potential of lymphadenectomy, we excluded all patients with proven positive nodes. We assumed, that routine lymphadenectomy in patients with pN0 nodal status could improve survival through the eliminating potential site of future recurrence, as in the cohort with selective lymphadenectomy, patients were expected to have residual nodal disease. We also found no survival advantage of routine lymphadenectomy over no lymphadenectomy (HR 1.17 95% CI 0.6–2.11).
Although the routine lymphadenectomy of the hepatoduodenal ligament in the treatment of liver metastasis from CRC is, according to our results, a safe procedure with acceptable morbidity that is not higher than after liver resection only (p = 0.36), we found no survival benefit from its use. Therefore, we suggest considering routine lymphadenectomy during liver resection individually until evidence from high-quality studies supports its use.
Our results do not support the use of routine lymphadenectomy; therefore, we suggest to not perform it as a standard procedure, although its morbidity is the same as after liver resection only (p = 0.36). The quality of data in the literature is unclear, and the conclusions are controversial; thus, we suggest that patients be enrolled in prospective clinical studies, which we are currently performing.
Although the routine lymphadenectomy of the hepatoduodenal ligament in the treatment of liver metastasis from CRC is, according to our results, a safe procedure with acceptable morbidity, we found no survival benefit from its use. Therefore, we suggest considering routine lymphadenectomy during liver resection individually until evidence from high-quality studies supports its use. We confirmed the presence of nodal metastasis as a negative prognostic marker with zero percent 3-year survival.
American Society of Anesthesiologists
National Cancer Institute Bratislava Slovakia
positivity of pathological nodal staging
Special thanks to Dr. Michal Mego from NCI for reviewing important intellectual content and language corrections.
Availability of data and materials
All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article.
Authors contributed to the conception and design (DP, JP), to the writing of the manuscript (DP), and the acquisition of data, statistical analysis and interpretation of data (JP, DP, MT). All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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The study was approved by the institutional review board and ethics committee of the National Cancer Institute Bratislava, Slovakia and a waiver of consent was granted.
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