Mediastinal lymph node staging for lung cancer

Noriyoshi Sawabata


Mediastinal lymph node staging is crucial in deciding the treatment strategy for lung carcinoma. The diagnosis rate of computed tomography is not high; however, it is a standard examination. Although the contrast computed tomography is necessary for an accurate diagnosis, images from the positron emission tomography are excellent, and these two technologies are independent and complementary. Positron emission tomography has a disadvantage of false positives and false negatives, but it should also be used in cases where lymph node diameters are 1 cm or more. However, image-based diagnostic methods are not an alternative to histological examination. The results of a transbronchial needle biopsy are extremely dependent on the inspection method, the diagnostic ability of the physician, and the staging of the case. The transesophageal ultrasound endoscope is useful for reaching parts inaccessible by a mediastinoscope. Although its employment requires technical training, it is becoming popular as a minimally invasive method of obtaining cell and the tissue samples. A thoracoscopic biopsy is considered as a last resort for mediastinal lymph node diagnosis. Carefully-chosen invasive procedures are necessary to diagnose swollen lymph nodes. Although mediastinoscopy is still considered as the gold standard, most procedures will be replaced by a comparatively minimally invasive method in the future.