The thoracic duct (TD) plays an important role in nutrition and immunity but is often resected with the esophagus when dissecting surrounding lymph nodes in patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). We examined whether indiscriminate TD resection improved the prognosis of patients with ESCC treated with neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (NACRT) followed by esophagectomy.
A total of 440 patients treated with NACRT followed by esophagectomy between 2007 and 2012 were analyzed using data from the Comprehensive Registry of Esophageal Cancer in Japan. The propensity score-matched TD resection and TD preservation groups were compared in terms of short- and long-term outcomes.
After matching, there were 85 patients in both groups. No significant differences were found between groups in either overall survival or cause-specific survival rates at 5 years: 44.2% and 49.0% in the TD resection group, and 39.8% and 47.2% in the TD preservation group, respectively. Furthermore, the number of retrieved mediastinal lymph nodes was significantly greater in the TD resection group than in the TD preservation group (26 vs. 15, p < 0.0001). In contrast, TD resection was associated with metastasis to a significantly greater number of distant organs than TD preservation (49 vs. 32, p = 0.049).
TD resection did not contribute to improved survival in patients with ESCC but did lead to metastases in more organs than TD preservation. Consequently, indiscriminate TD resection might be avoided in patients with ESCC treated with NACRT followed by esophagectomy.

© 2022. Society of Surgical Oncology.