BACKGROUND: The role of surgical staging of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) continues to evolve. This report describes our findings utilizing routine cervical mediastinoscopy in the evaluation of peripheral T1 (<3 cm) lung tumors. METHODS: Retrospectively 30 patients with peripheral T1 lesions and CT scans negative for pathologic adenopathy were identified over a 3-year period. Cervical mediastinoscopy was performed prior to VATS/thoracotomy during the same operative session. RESULTS: Mediastinoscopy was performed in 29 of 30 patients. For patients with malignancy (27 of 30), 3 of 27 (11%) had mediastinoscopy positive for malignancy and no further resection performed. Overall the subgroup of patients with bronchogenic carcinomas had positive mediastinal involvement identified in 5 of 24 (21%) after mediastinoscopy or complete resection. CONCLUSIONS: A significant number of patients with small peripheral lung cancers harbor radiographically occult lymph node involvement. Mediastinoscopy facilitates identification of patients with regionally advanced disease prior to resection, allowing neoadjuvant therapy and avoiding unnecessary resections.
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