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Acta Chir Belg. 2012 May-Jun;112(3):200-8.

Who is responsible for inadequate lymph node retrieval after colorectal surgery: surgeon or pathologist?

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  • 1Department of General Surgery, Gulhane Military Medical Academy, Ankara, Turkey.



Many factors have been described influencing survival of patients with colorectal cancer. The most important prognostic factor is lymph node involvement. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network indicates that at least 12 lymph nodes (LN12) must be retrieved for proper staging and treatment planning. The surgeon and the pathologist influence the number of retrieved lymph nodes.


We retrospectively reviewed all patients with diagnosis and subsequent surgery for colorectal cancer from January 2004 to January 2010 at Gulhane Military Medical Academy in Ankara, Turkey. We investigated the relationship between LN 12 and the independent variables of tumour size, lymph node involvement, metastasis, age, gender, surgeon, pathologist, surgical specimen length, tumour stage, and localization. Statistical analysis utilized the Shapiro-Wilk test, interquartile range, Mann-Whitney test, chi-square and chi-square likelihood ratio tests, and Kruskal-Wallis nonparametric variance analysis. In order to identify influencing factors for retrieval of lymph nodes, multiple linear regression was performed. In order to identify the direction and extent of effects of these influencing factors, logistic regression was performed. OR (Odds Ratio) and 95% CI (Confidence Interval) of the OR were calculated.


There were 223 study patients, 134 with colon cancer and 89 with rectal cancer. There was no statistical significance in terms of age, gender, cancer type and postoperative tumour size, number of metastatic lymph nodes > 4, or LN12 (p > 0.05). Statistical significance was found between surgeons and LN12, the number of operations and LN12 (p < 0.001), and pathologists and LN12 (p = 0.049).


Harvesting an adequate number of lymph nodes is crucial for patients with colorectal cancer in terms of staging and planning further treatment modalities such as adjuvant chemotherapy. Multidisciplinary collaboration between surgeons and pathologists is vital for optimal patient outcomes.

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