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Ann Surg. 2002 Aug;236(2):177-83.

Three-field lymph node dissection for squamous cell and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.

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  • 1Division of General Thoracic Surgery, Weill Medical College, Cornell University, New York, New York 10021, USA.



To determine the prevalence of occult cervical nodal metastases in patients with squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, and to determine the impact of esophagectomy with three-field lymph node dissection on survival and recurrence rates.


Although esophagectomy with three-field lymph node dissection is commonly practiced in Japan, its role in the surgical management of esophageal cancer in the United States, especially in patients with esophageal adenocarcinoma, is essentially unknown.


This is a prospective observational study of esophagectomy with three-field lymphadenectomy. Eighty patients underwent resection between August 1994 and April 2001. Clinicopathological information and follow-up data were collected on all patients until death or June 2001.


Hospital mortality and morbidity rates were 5% and 46%, respectively. Metastases to the recurrent laryngeal and/or deep cervical nodes occurred in 36% of patients irrespective of cell type (adenocarcinoma 37%, squamous 34%) or location within the esophagus (lower third 32%, middle third 60%). Overall 5-year and disease-free survival rates were 51% and 46%, respectively. Sixty-nine percent presented with nodal metastases. The 5-year survival rate for node-negative patients was 88%; that for those with nodal metastases was 33%. The 5-year survival rate in patients with positive cervical nodes was 25% (squamous 40%, adenocarcinoma 15%).


Esophagectomy with three-field lymph node dissection can be performed with a low mortality and reasonable morbidity. Unsuspected metastases to the recurrent laryngeal and/or cervical nodes are present in 36% of patients regardless of cell type or location within the esophagus. Thirty percent of patients were upstaged, mainly from stage III to stage IV. An overall 5-year survival rate of 51% suggests a true survival benefit beyond that achieved solely on the basis of stage migration.

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