BACKGROUND: Adequate lymphadenectomy during gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer resection is essential, because lymph node (LN) metastasis correlates with increased recurrence risk. Fluorescence lymphography with indocyanine green (ICG) has been used for LN mapping in several surgical specialties; however, reports on GEJ cancer are lacking. Therefore, we investigated whether intraoperative ICG lymphography could facilitate LN harvest during robot-assisted resection of GEJ cancer.
METHODS: Patients scheduled for robot-assisted resection of GEJ cancer were included, and outcomes were compared with historical controls. After intraoperative endoscopic submucosal ICG injection, standard D1 + LN dissection was performed under white light. Then, near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence imaging was activated, and each LN dissection area was re-examined. Any tissue within the D1 + field exhibiting distinctly increased ICG fluorescence compared with background tissue was dissected and sent for pathology review.
RESULTS: We included 70 patients between June 2020 and October 2021. Three cases were aborted due to disseminated disease, and two were converted to open resection and excluded from the analysis. Additional tissue was dissected after NIR review in 34 of 65 (52%) patients. We dissected 43 fluorescent tissue samples, and after pathology review, 30 were confirmed LNs; none were metastatic. The median number of LNs harvested per patient (34, interquartile range [IQR] = 26-44) was not significantly different from that harvested from historical controls (32, IQR = 24-45; p = 0.92), nor were there any differences between these two groups in the duration of surgery, intraoperative blood loss, or comprehensive complication scores (p = 0.12, p = 0.46, and p = 0.41, respectively).
CONCLUSIONS: Intraoperative NIR lymphography with ICG may aid LN detection during robot-assisted resection of GEJ cancer without increasing surgical risk. Although NIR lymphography may facilitate LN dissection, none of the LN removed after the NIR review was metastatic. Hence, it remains uncertain whether NIR lymphography will improve oncological outcomes.
- Esophageal Neoplasms/diagnostic imaging
- Esophagogastric Junction/diagnostic imaging
- Indocyanine Green
- Lymph Node Excision/methods
- Lymph Nodes/diagnostic imaging
- Lymphatic Metastasis/pathology
- Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy/methods
- Stomach Neoplasms/diagnostic imaging