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Our aim was to assess the significance of metabolic positron emission tomography (PET) parameters for the prediction of occult mediastinal lymph node metastasis (OLM) and recurrence in patients with clinical-N0 nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after surgical resection and lymph node dissection.We evaluated 98 patients with NSCLC [52 adenocarcinoma (ADC), 46 squamous cell carcinoma (SQCC)] who had undergone initial/preoperative fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG PET/CT). Eligibility criteria for participation were clinically staged as N0 and no FDG uptake in mediastinal lymph nodes on preoperative PET/CT. Clinicopathological characteristics and the diagnosis of recurrence were obtained by reviewing the hospital records. Metabolic parameters [maximum standardized uptake value, mean standardized uptake value, metabolic tumor volume (MTV), total lesion glycolysis] were determined on 18F-FDG PET/CT images. The association of metabolic parameters with OLM and recurrence was assessed.OLM was found in 26 (26.53%) patients. T-stage, central location, and lymphovascular invasion were associated with OLM (respectively, P=0.007, 0.011, <0.001). None of the metabolic parameters was associated with OLM. Metabolic parameters of the tumor were significantly higher in patients with recurrence when the cohort was evaluated as a whole (P=0.002, 0.005, 0.016, and 0.004, respectively). In particular, there was a significant association between recurrence and tumor size, grade, stage, MTV (P<0.001), and TLG (P<0.001) in ADC. This association was not found in SQCC. Multivariate analysis showed that MTV was an independent prognostic factor for recurrence and associated with disease-free survival.Metabolic parameters of the primary tumor on preoperative 18F-FDG PET/CT could not predict OLM in patients with clinical-N0 NSCLC. MTV was an independent risk factor for recurrence in ADC, but not in SQCC.