Endoscopic resection is considered as curative treatment for early upper GI cancers under certain histologic (low-risk) criteria. In tumors not completely fulfilling these criteria but resected R0 endoscopically, esophagectomy is still advised due to an increased risk of lymph node (LN) metastases. However, the benefit-risk ratio especially in elderly patients at higher risk for radical surgery can be debated. We now present the outcome of our case series of laparoscopic lymph node sampling (LLS) in patients with T1 esophagogastric junction tumors, which had been completely resected by endoscopy but did not fulfill the low-risk criteria (G1/2, m, L0, V0).
Retrospective review of all T1 cancer cases undergoing LLS with at least one high-risk parameter after endoscopic resection during an 8-year period. Repeated endoscopy with biopsy and abdominothoracic CT had been performed before. Cases were divided into 2 periods, before (n=8) and after (n=12) introduction of an extended LLS protocol (additional resection of the left gastric artery). In case of positive LN, patients underwent conventional oncologic surgery; if negative, follow-up was performed. Main outcome was the number of harvested LN by means of LLS and the percentage of positive LNs found.
20 patients with cardia (n=1) and distal esophageal/Barrett’s cancer (n=19) were included. The LN rate using the extended LLS technique increased by 12 % (period 1: median 12 (range 5-19; 95% CI, 3.4-15.4) vs period 2: median 17.5 (range 12-40; 95% CI, 12.8-22.2; p=0.013). There were 2 adverse events, 1 inadvertent chest tube removal, and 1 postoperative pneumonia. In 15% of cases patients had positive lymph nodes and in 2 cases there was local recurrence at the endoscopic resection site, all necessitating surgery.
An extended technique of laparoscopic lymph node sampling appears to provide adequate LN numbers and is a safe approach with short hospital stay only. Only long-term follow-up of larger patient numbers will allow conclusions about miss rate as well as oncologic adequacy of this concept.

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