Background: The utility of lymph node mapping to improve staging in colon cancer is still under evaluation. Laparoscopic colectomy for colon cancer has been validated in multi-centric trials. This study assessed the feasibility and technical aspects of lymph node mapping in laparoscopic colectomy for colon cancer.
Methods: A total of 42 patients with histologically proven colon cancer were studied from January 2006 to September 2007. Exclusion criteria were: advanced disease (clinical stage III), rectal cancer, previous colon resection and contraindication to laparoscopy. Lymph-nodal status was assessed preoperatively by computed tomography (CT) scan and intra-operatively with the aid of laparoscopic ultrasound. Before resection, 2–3 ml of Patent Blue V dye was injected sub-serosally around the tumour. Coloured lymph nodes were marked as sentinel (SN) with metal clips or suture and laparoscopic colectomy with lymphadenectomy completed as normal. In case of failure of the intra-operative procedure, an ex vivo SN biopsy was performed on the colectomy specimen after resection.
Results: A total number of 904 lymph nodes were examined, with a median number of 22 lymph nodes harvested per patient. The SN detection rate was 100%, an ex vivo lymph node mapping was necessary in four patients. Eleven (26.2%) patients had lymph-nodal metastases and in five (45.5%) of these patients, SN was the only positive lymph node. There were two (18.2%) false-negative SN. In three cases (7.1%) with aberrant lymphatic drainage, lymphadenectomy was extended. The accuracy of SN mapping was 95.2% and negative predictive value was 93.9%.
Conclusions: Laparoscopic lymphatic mapping and SN removal is feasible in laparoscopic colectomy for colon cancer. The ex vivo technique is useful as a salvage technique in case of failure of the intra-operative procedure. Prospective studies are justified to determine the real accuracy and false-negative rate of the technique.