Lymph node dissection in resectable advanced gastric cancer

Wobbe O de Steur, Johan L Dikken, Henk H Hartgrink
Digestive Surgery 2013, 30 (2): 96-103
The extent of surgery for gastric cancer has been debated since Billroth performed his first gastrectomy in 1881. This review gives an overview of the available literature on the extent of gastrectomy and lymphadenectomy for advanced resectable gastric cancer. Subtotal gastrectomy is associated with lower morbidity and mortality compared with total gastrectomy, without compromising long-term survival. However, a positive resection margin decreases the chance of curation. Frozen section examination may prevent this. For poorly differentiated singlet ring cell tumors, there may be an argument to perform a total gastrectomy in all cases. In 1981, the Japanese Research Society for the Study of Gastric Cancer provided guidelines for the standardization of surgical treatment and pathological evaluation of gastric cancer. Since then, D2 lymph node dissections have become the standard of care in Japan. Because of the superior stage-specific survival rates in Japan, a D2 dissection was evaluated in several Western randomized controlled trials, but no survival benefit was found for a D2 over a D1 dissection. This might be explained by the increased mortality in the D2 dissection groups which might be the result of a standard pancreaticosplenectomy and low experience with D2 dissections. Adding the removal of the para-aortic nodes to a D2 dissection does not further improve survival. The removal of lymph node stations 10 and 11 by splenectomy showed an increased morbidity, no survival benefit, and a very poor prognosis if lymph nodes were affected. Therefore, pancreaticosplenectomy should only be performed in cases of tumor invasion into these organs. A D2 dissection without routine splenectomy and pancreatic tail resection in experienced hands should be considered standard of care for advanced resectable gastric cancer, both in Asian and in Western patients. Centralization and auditing may further improve outcomes after gastrectomy.

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