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J Surg Res. 2011 Sep;170(1):e41-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2011.03.055. Epub 2011 Apr 19.

Advanced fellowship training is associated with improved lymph node retrieval in colon cancer resections.

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Section of Colon and Rectal Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.



Examination of at least 12 lymph nodes has been established as the standard of care for adequate staging of colon cancer. The purpose of this study was to determine whether surgeon fellowship training, patient body mass index (BMI), and surgical approach (open versus laparoscopic) are important factors associated with lymph node retrieval at an NCI/NCCN-designated center.


We conducted a retrospective review of patients undergoing colectomy for colon cancer from 1994 to 2009. Patients who underwent right, left, and sigmoid colectomy by open or laparoscopic approaches were included. Lymph node retrieval and risk factors for inadequate nodal retrieval (<12 nodes) were analyzed.


A total of 371 patients were included. Lymph node retrieval was found to be significantly increased when surgeons had fellowship training compared with no advanced training (19.9 ± 10.6 versus 14.8 ± 10.6, P = 0.0007). Lymph node retrieval was found to be significantly decreased in obese patients (BMI ≥ 30) compared with non-obese patients (17.3 ± 10.0 versus 19.9 ± 11.5, P = 0.05). There was no significant difference between open and laparoscopic approaches. On multivariate analysis, lack of fellowship training, surgery performed prior to establishment of NCI guidelines for lymph node retrieval, and small tumor size were independent predictors of inadequate lymph node retrieval.


Advanced fellowship training of surgeons appears to be associated with higher lymph node retrieval and decreased risk of performing inadequate nodal retrieval. Small tumor size and surgery performed prior to establishment of the 12 lymph node benchmark were also associated with inadequate nodal retrieval.

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