Front Surg. 2020 Sep 22;7:580203. doi: 10.3389/fsurg.2020.580203. eCollection 2020.
Background: Lymph node metastasis (LNM) status is critical to the treatment. Fewer studies has focused on LNM in patients with small-size non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This study aims to investigate clinicopathological characteristics associated with skip N2 (SN2) and non-skip N2 (NSN2) metastasis, and their metastatic patterns in NSCLC with tumor size of 1-2 cm. Methods: We reviewed the records of NSCLC patients with tumor size of 1-2 cm who underwent lobectomy with systematic lymph node dissection (LND) between January 2013 and June 2019. Clinical, radiographical, and pathological characteristics were compared among N1, SN2, and NSN2 groups. Metastatic patterns of mediastinal lymph node were analyzed based on final pathology. Results: A total of 63 NSCLC patients with tumor size of 1-2 cm were staged as pN2, including 25 (39.7%) SN2 and 38 (60.3%) NSN2. The incidence rates of SN2 and NSN2 were 2.8% (25/884) and 4.3% (38/884), respectively. For all clinicopathological characteristics, no significant difference was observed among the groups of N1, SN2, and NSN2. For the tumor located in each lobe, specific nodal drainage stations were identified: 2R/4R for right upper lobe; 2R/4R and subcarinal node (#7) for right middle lobe and right lower lobe; 4L and subaortic node (#5) for left upper lobe; #7 for left lower lobe. However, there were still a few patients (10.9%, 5/46) had the involvement of lower zone for tumors of upper lobe and the involvement of upper zone for lower lobe. Conclusions: SN2 occurs frequently in patients with small-size NSCLC. Whether lobe-specific selective LND is suitable for all small-size patients deserves more studies to confirm. Surgeons should be more careful when performing selective LND for tumors located in the lower and upper lobes.