The role of radical resection in the treatment of gallbladder carcinoma was examined with special reference to lymph node metastasis using two classifications: one proposed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and the other by the Japanese Society of Biliary Surgery (JSBS). Histologic evaluations for the depth of tumor invasion (T), lymph node metastasis (N), stage, and follow-up for a mean period of 38 months (range 4-185 months) were completed in 52 patients with gallbladder carcinoma who underwent surgical resection from 1982 to 1997. The definition of T was similar in the two classifications. The extent of nodal involvement (N, AJCC; n, JSBS), stage, and survival were examined. In the absence of lymph node metastasis, the 5-year survival rate reached 71%. The 5-year survival rate in patients with involved nodes confined to the hepatoduodenal ligament, posterosuperior pancreaticoduodenal region, or along the common hepatic artery (N1 and part of N2 by AJCC; n1 and n2 by JSBS) approximated 28%. In contrast, postoperative survival was poor in the presence of more extensive nodal involvement (rest of N2 by AJCC; n3 and n4 by JSBS), with no 2-year survivors. The definition of stage I was the same in both classifications, and all patients in this stage are alive. The 5-year survival rates in stages II and III by the AJCC were 70.7% and 22.4%, respectively, and those by JSBS 61.9% and 23.1%, respectively. Thus the survival rates in stages I to III were essentially similar irrespective of the staging system. Stage IV showed significantly worse survival than stage III by the JSBS classification. In contrast, the differentiation of stage IV from III by the AJCC was not significant because of the better survival in stage IV that contained any T with nodal involvement in the posterosuperior pancreaticoduodenal region and along the common hepatic artery. Radical resection should be considered for patients with stage I to III disease defined by either classification and applied to the tumor invasion up to T3 with nodal involvement confined to the hepatoduodenal ligament, posterosuperior pancreaticoduodenal region, and along the common hepatic artery. The role of radical surgery seems to be limited in patients with more extensive tumor invasion or lymph node metastasis.
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