Background: Positron emission tomography ( PET) is accurate for mediastinal staging of lung cancer but has a moderate positive predictive value, necessitating pathological verification. Endoscopic ultrasonography with fine needle aspiration (EUS-FNA) is a technique for tissue verification of mediastinal and upper retroperitoneal abnormalities. The use of EUS-FNA may decrease the number of surgical procedures and thereby staging costs.
Methods: EUS-FNA was used prospectively for the cytological assessment of mediastinal and/or upper retroperitoneal PET hot spots in patients with suspected lung cancer. Only if EUS-FNA was positive for malignancy was subsequent mediastinoscopy or exploratory thoracotomy cancelled. The cost effectiveness of EUS-FNA was determined.
Results: Of 488 consecutive patients with suspected lung cancer, 81 were enrolled with mediastinal and/or upper retroperitoneal PET hot spots. EUS-FNA was positive in 50 (62%) patients, negative in six, and inconclusive in 25. Of the 31 negative or inconclusive patients, 26 underwent surgical staging ( resulting in 14 patients with and 12 without mediastinal malignancy), while five patients had mediastinal metastases during follow up. No EUS-FNA related morbidity or mortality was encountered. The accuracy of the decision to proceed to surgery ( or not) on the basis of EUS-FNA was 77% (95% CI 68 to 86). EUS-FNA detected more mediastinal abnormalities than PET except for the upper mediastinal region. Addition of EUS-FNA to conventional lung cancer staging reduced staging costs by 40% per patient, mainly due to a decrease in surgical staging procedures.
Conclusion: EUS-FNA can replace more than half of the surgical staging procedures in lung cancer patients with mediastinal and/or upper retroperitoneal PET hot spots, thereby saving 40% of staging costs.