Background: The desirability of supraclavicular lymph node (LN) dissection, which is the cervical part of three-field LN dissection, has been discussed for a long time. In this study, we examine the pattern of supraclavicular LN metastasis in esophageal cancer, with a particular focus on the correlation between recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) LN and supraclavicular LN metastasis. Methods: In all, 220 cases of R0 resected T1 to T3 squamous cell carcinomas were retrospectively examined. All of these patients underwent bilateral RLN LNs dissection; none received cancer treatment before surgery. Results: Of 21 upper esophageal cancer cases, 33.3% of the patients had metastasis in the supraclavicular LN. Every patient in whom supraclavicular LN metastasis developed had metastasis in the RLN LN. Of 141 cases of middle esophageal cancer, 19.1% had metastasis in the supraclavicular LN. Among the patients whose RLN LN metastasized, 38.3% had metastasis in the supraclavicular LN. A similar correlation between RLN LN and supraclavicular LN metastasis was observed in lower esophageal cancer cases, especially in T3 cases. When considering cancers of the esophagus and patients who had metastasis in the supraclavicular LN, our data demonstrated that RLN LN metastasis did not always lead to metastasis on the same side of the supraclavicular LN. Conclusions: The status of the RLN LN can be an indicator of supraclavicular LN dissection in upper esophageal cancer patients and advanced cases of middle and lower esophageal cancer patients. Bilateral supraclavicular LN dissection should be recommended even when only unilateral RLN LN metastasis occurs.
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