International Journal of Colorectal Disease

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 797–804 | Cite as

Complete mesocolic excision and extended (D3) lymphadenectomy for colonic cancer: is it worth that extra effort? A review of the literature

  • Andrew Emmanuel
  • Amyn Haji



Recent interest in complete mesocolic excision (CME) with central vascular ligation (CVL) or extended (D3) lymphadenectomy (EL) for curative resection of colon cancer has been driven by published series from experienced practitioners showing excellent survival outcomes and low recurrence rates. In this article, we attempt to clarify the role of CME or EL in modern colorectal surgery.


A narrative review of the evidence for CME and EL in the curative treatment of colon cancer.


The principal of CME surgery, similar to total mesorectal excision (TME) for rectal cancer, is the removal of all lymphatic, vascular, and neural tissue in the drainage area of the tumour in a complete mesocolic envelope with intact mesentery, peritoneum and encasing fascia. Extended (D3) lymphadenectomy (EL) is based on similar principles. Sound anatomical and oncological arguments are made to support the principles of removing the tumor contained within an intact mesocolic facial envelope together with an extended lymph node harvest. Excellent oncological outcomes with minimal morbidity and mortality have been reported. This has led to calls for the standardisation of surgery for colon cancer using CME. However, there is conflicting evidence regarding the prognostic benefit of greater lymph node harvests and the evidence for an oncological benefit of CME is limited by methodology flaws and several potential confounding factors.


Although there is a reasonable anatomical and oncological basis for these techniques, there are no randomised controlled trials from which to draw confident conclusions and there is insufficient consistent high quality evidence to recommend widespread adoption of CME.


Complete mesocolic excision Extended lymphadenectomy Colon cancer Cancer survival Cancer recurrence 


Compliance with ethical standards

Author contributions

A. Emmanuel and A. Haji were involved in the concept and design of the review. A. Emmanuel performed the literature review and wrote the text. A. Haji reviewed the manuscript and made corrections and revisions.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Colorectal Surgery, King’s College HospitalKing’s College Hospital NHS Foundation TrustLondonUK

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