Variation in Adequate Lymph Node Yield for Gastric, Lung, and Bladder Cancer: Attributable to the Surgeon, Pathologist, or Hospital?

Bladder Cancer

Aquina CT, et al. Ann Surg Oncol 2020.


BACKGROUND: The Commission on Cancer recently released quality-of-care measures regarding adequate lymphadenectomy for colon, gastric, lung, and bladder cancer. There is currently little information regarding variation in adequate lymph node yield (ALNY) for gastric, lung, and bladder cancer.

METHODS: The New York State Cancer Registry and Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System were queried for stage I-III gastric, stage I-II lung, and stage II-III bladder cancer resections from 2004 to 2014. Hierarchical models assessed factors associated with ALNY (gastric ≥ 15; lung ≥ 10; bladder ≥ 2). Additionally, the proportions of variation attributable to surgeons, pathologists, and hospitals were estimated among Medicare patients.

RESULTS: Among 3716 gastric, 18,328 lung, and 1512 bladder cancer resections, there were low rates of ALNY (gastric = 53%, lung = 36%, bladder = 67%). When comparing 2004-2006 and 2012-2014, there was significant improvement in ALNY for gastric cancer (39% vs. 68%), but more modest improvement for lung (33% vs. 38%) and bladder (65% vs. 71%) cancer. Large provider-level variation existed for each organ system. After controlling for patient-level factors/variation, the majority of variation was attributable to hospitals (gastric: surgeon = 4%, pathologist = 2.8%, hospital = 40%; lung: surgeon = 13.8%, pathologist = 1.5%, hospital = 18.3%) for gastric and lung cancer. For bladder cancer, most of the variation was attributable to pathologists (surgeon = 3.3%, pathologist = 10.5%, hospital = 6.2%).

CONCLUSIONS: ALNY rates are low for gastric, lung, and bladder cancer, with only modest improvement over time for lung and bladder cancer. Given that the proportion of variation attributable to the surgeon, pathologist, and hospital is different for each organ system, future quality improvement initiatives should target the underlying causes, which vary by individual organ system.