Renal cell carcinoma with renal vein and inferior vena caval involvement: clinicopathological features, surgical techniques and outcomes

Dipen J Parekh, Michael S Cookson, William Chapman, Frank Harrell, Nancy Wells, Sam S Chang, Joseph A Smith
Journal of Urology 2005, 173 (6): 1897-902

PURPOSE: We present a contemporary review of patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) in whom renal vein/inferior vena caval thrombus was treated with radical nephrectomy and thrombectomy.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 220 patients underwent radical nephrectomy for RCC at our institution from 1998 to 2002. Of them 49 patients with renal vein/inferior vena caval involvement (T3b/c) were selected for review. We evaluated demographics, presenting symptoms, imaging modalities, clinical staging, pathological features, adjuvant treatment and clinical outcomes. We also evaluated surgical incisions, liver mobilization procedures, blood loss, transfusion requirements and perioperative mortality/morbidity.

RESULTS: Gross hematuria was the most common presenting symptom, seen in 22 patients (45%), followed by constitutional symptoms in 8 (16%). Stage T3b/c was clinically diagnosed in 44 patients, while 2 had T2 and 2 had T4 disease. A subcostal incision was made in 30 patients, a chevron incision was made in 18, and a sternotomy and flank incision were made in 1. Liver mobilization was necessary in 13 patients and 2 required a Pringle maneuver. Cardiopulmonary bypass was performed in a single patient. Lymph node involvement was seen in 4 patients (8%) and distant metastases were present in 10 (20%). Median tumor size was 10 cm. Clear cell carcinoma was most common, as seen in 42 patients. Early (30-day) mortality in this series was 8%. At a median followup of 15 months 21 patients (43%) were without evidence of disease, 14 (29%) had disease, 8 (16%) had died of disease and 2 (4%) had died of other causes. None of the patients with lymph node involvement survived beyond 8 months after surgery. Tumor grade and T stage were found to be significant negative predictors of survival on univariate analysis.

CONCLUSION: Most patients with RCC and tumor thrombus are symptomatic at presentation and metastatic disease at presentation is not uncommon. These results support the role of aggressive surgical treatment as the best initial management of these tumors. The majority of tumors can be approached and safely controlled without the need for a thoracoabdominal incision. While surgery provides modest disease-free survival, most patients should be offered immunotherapy, particularly those with advanced stage, grade, nodal involvement or metastases.

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