Occult Metastases in Pelvic Lymphadenectomy Specimens From Patients With Urothelial Carcinoma of the Bladder

Academic Article


  • Objective To identify occult metastases within lymph nodes (LNs) reported as negative by routine histologic evaluation. In patients with high-grade, muscle-invasive urothelial carcinoma (UC) of the bladder, pelvic lymphadenectomy during radical cystectomy demonstrates a survival advantage, increasing with the number of LNs removed, even if negative for metastatic disease. This finding may potentially be explained by the presence of occult metastases. Materials and Methods Radical cystectomy specimens with high-grade UC invading the perivesical tissue and negative LNs (pT3N0) between 2000 and 2014 were reviewed. Five levels were cut for each LN block. Two sections were cut per level: 1 stained for hematoxylin and eosin and 1 for AE1/AE3. Micrometastases were defined as tumor deposits >0.2 mm but <2 mm. Isolated tumor cells were defined as ≤0.2 mm. Medical records and survival data were reviewed. Results We identified 21 cases, consisting of 370 lymph nodes. Six of 21 patients (29%) had occult metastases, including 5 occult metastatic UC and 1 occult metastatic prostate adenocarcinoma. There were 10 positive LNs; 2 macrometastases, 2 micrometastases, and 6 with ITCs. Two of 6 patients (33%) had lymphovascular invasion identified in the primary tumor. Kaplan-Meier analysis showed no significant difference in overall survival between the group of patients who remained N0 versus those upstaged due to discovery of occult metastases (P-value = .42). Conclusion In patients with pT3 UC undergoing cystectomy, we demonstrated the presence of occult metastases in 29% of patients. The high percentage of occult metastases present in these cases possibly explains the proven survival advantage of removing “negative” LNs. This finding might also have implications in the histologic evaluation of LNs.
  • Published In

  • Urology  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Gordetsky J; Gibson B; Stevens TM; Ellenburg JL; Grizzle W; Rais-Bahrami S
  • Start Page

  • 161
  • End Page

  • 166
  • Volume

  • 94