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Dis Colon Rectum. 2001 Sep;44(9):1333-6.

Anatomic study of the lymph nodes of the mesorectum.

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  • 1Cátedra de Anotomía, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay.



Lymph node involvement is the most important prognostic factor when staging patients with colorectal cancer. The probability of detecting metastasis grows with the number of nodes examined. However, the number of nodes found in surgical specimens varies substantially. We have therefore determined the number and distribution of lymph nodes in the mesorectum by cadaveric dissection.


Twenty formalin-fixed cadaveric pelvises were dissected (13 males). The search for lymph nodes was performed in a systematic way, from the division of the superior rectal artery following the smallest visible branches to the level of the anorectal ring.


A total of 168 lymph nodes were found in 20 mesorectal blocks, with a mean (standard deviation) number per specimen of 8.4 (4.45). Lymph node size ranged from 2 to 10 mm. Distribution of lymph nodes in mesorectum was as follows: 120 nodes (71.4 percent) were found around the branches of the superior rectal artery proximal to the peritoneal reflection, and 48 nodes (28.6 percent) were found distal to the peritoneal reflection. Fourteen specimens (70 percent) had lymph nodes at the division of the superior rectal artery.


The mean number of lymph nodes found in the mesorectum distal to the superior rectal artery division was 8.4. Most of these lymph nodes were proximal to the peritoneal reflection. The range found in the number of lymph nodes per case should be considered for use in the formulation of guidelines in anatomicopathologic studies of surgical specimens obtained after mesorectal excision.

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