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The adequacy of lymph node clearance in colon cancer surgery performed in a non-specialist centre; implications for practice



Despite recent medical advances, surgery remains the mainstay treatment in colon cancer. It is well established that better patient outcomes are achieved when complex surgery including pancreatic, oesophageal and rectal surgeries are carried out in high-volume centres. However, it is unclear as to whether or not colon cancer patients receive the same benefit. Lymph node adequacy is a key performance indicator of successful oncological colonic resection which impacts on patient outcome.


To assess the adequacy of lymph node clearance during colonic resection performed with curative intent in a non-specialist centre post introduction of the National Cancer Strategy.


Retrospective analysis was performed of a prospectively maintained database examining the lymph node clearance of all oncological resections for colon cancer over a 7-year period (Nov 2010–Dec 2017) at a satellite unit with links to a regional specialist centre. Primary outcome measured was the number of lymph nodes retrieved. Secondary outcomes included resection margins, 30-day complication rate and survival at 1 year. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS Statistics for Windows, version 24.0 (IBM Corp, Armonk, N.Y., USA).


One hundred sixty-seven patients were included. Mean age was 71.0 ± 11.6 years. Majority were male (n = 90, 53.6%). The majority of resections was right sided (n = 112.66.7%) with 78.6% of all resections being undertaken electively. All margins were free of tumour. The average lymph node count was 19.93 ± 8.63 (4.62) with only 17 (10.2%) of specimens containing < 12 nodes. The anastomotic leak rate was 3.3%. There was no association between surgeon or pathologist volume, nor emergent status and achieving oncological lymph node count (p = 0.14, 0.29, 0.97). 90.5% of patients were alive at 1 year.


This study demonstrates that colonic cancer surgery can be safely performed in a non- specialist centre with technical outcomes comparable to nationally reported figures.

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Correspondence to Patrick Higgins.

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Higgins, P., Nemeth, T., Bennani, F. et al. The adequacy of lymph node clearance in colon cancer surgery performed in a non-specialist centre; implications for practice. Ir J Med Sci 189, 75–81 (2020).

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  • Colon cancer
  • Colorectal
  • General surgery
  • Lymph node
  • Non-specialist
  • Surgery