Background: There is no consensus about the extent of lymphadenectomy for patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma at the cervicothoracic junction (CT-ESCC). The purpose of this study was to examine the pattern of lymph node spread in patients with CT-ESCC and the extent of lymphadenectomy that is necessary. Methods: We included 64 consecutive patients with CT-ESCC who underwent surgery. All patients were divided into two groups based on the location of the epicenter or anal edge of the primary tumor. Using the height of the epicenter, 27 and 37 patients were classified as having cervical-centered and thoracic-centered tumors, respectively; while, using the height of the anal edge, 38 and 26 patients had tumors that were cervical-localized and thoracic-invading, respectively. Results: In the patients with cervical-centered tumors, the incidences of metastasis and/or recurrences in the cervical paraesophageal, supraclavicular, and upper mediastinal nodes were 21.4–28.5 %. No patient had metastasis or recurrence in the middle and lower mediastinal and perigastric nodes. In patients with thoracic-centered tumors, the lymph node metastasis and/or recurrence spread to the cervical paraesophageal (41.7 %), supraclavicular (25 %), and upper mediastinal (55.6 %) nodes, as well as the middle (22.2 %) and lower mediastinal (8.3 %) and perigastric (19.4 %) nodes. There was no difference in the distribution and incidence of lymphatic spread between patients with the cervical-localized and thoracic-invading classifications. Conclusions: Our results indicate a cervical and upper mediastinal lymphadenectomy is better indicated for patients with cervical-centered CT-ESCC, whereas patients with thoracic-centered CT-ESCC should be treated with a three-field lymphadenectomy.
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