Lymphatic Spread in Stage Ib and II Cervical Carcinoma: Anatomy and Surgical Implications

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To determine the frequency and topography of pelvic and para-aortic node involvement in cervical carcinoma and to identify the appropriate level for resection of the lymphatic chains.


Between 1985 and 1994, 421 women with stage Ib or II cervical carcinoma were treated by surgery in combination with irradiation. Each underwent a radical hysterectomy with systematic pelvic and para-aortic lymphadenectomy.


A median of 34 lymph nodes were removed per patient. The overall frequency of lymph node involvement was 26%, and the frequency of para-aortic metastases was 8%. The frequency of lymph node metastasis was associated significantly with stage (x2 = 7.8; P < .02), tumor size (x2 = 14.8; P < .001), and patient age (x2 = 5.9; P < .05). The frequency of para-aortic involvement was below 3% in patients with small tumors (under 2 cm). When pelvic nodes were involved, the obturator group was concerned in 76 cases (18%) and the external iliac group in 48 patients (11%). When para-aortic nodes were involved, the left para-aortic chain was the most frequently concerned (23 patients [5%]). In eight of these patients, nodal involvement was found only above the level of the inferior mesenteric artery. Among 106 patients with pelvic positive nodes, 28 (26%) also had para-aortic metastatic nodes.


Para-aortic lymphadenectomy should remove all of the left para-aortic chain (inframesenteric and supramesenteric) and so should be performed up to the level of the left renal vein. According to the low frequency of para-aortic involvement when tumor size is below 2 cm, such a procedure could be avoided in patients with small tumors.

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