Current practices concerning the assessment and treatment of lateral lymph nodes in low rectal cancer: a survey among colorectal surgeons in The Netherlands

S.M. Hazen, T. Sluckin, G. Beets, R. Hompes, P. Tanis, M. Kusters*, Dutch Lateral Node Study Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose The presence of lateral lymph nodes (LLNs) in patients with rectal cancer is not always acknowledged by the multidisciplinary team or treated in a standardized manner, and (inter)national guidelines concerning this topic are lacking. This study aimed to evaluate current practices regarding the assessment and treatment of LLNs in rectal cancer patients based on a survey among Dutch colorectal surgeons. Methods An online survey was sent to members of the Dutch Association of Coloproctology. The survey consisted of 16 questions addressing their views on diagnosis, restaging, and treatment approaches for suspicious LLNs. Results A total of 62 surgeons from 50 Dutch hospitals responded. For patients with a distal cT3/T4 rectal tumor; lateral lymph node compartments were routinely discussed during multidisciplinary meetings in only nine hospitals (18%). When defining what makes an LLN suspicious; the size threshold varied from >3 to >10 mm (median 7, SD 2), and MRI-based malignant features were mentioned by 29 surgeons (47%). Surgeons stated eight different treatment strategies as their designated treatment of suspicious LLNs. A total of 33 surgeons (53%) would add a radiotherapy boost to the neoadjuvant treatment. In cases of surgical resection; 12 surgeons (19%) would remove the suspicious LLN by 'node-picking' and 44 surgeons (71%) would perform a lateral lymph node dissection. The variation was not influenced by hospital type or surgeon's experience. Conclusion These results highlight the vast variation in the awareness, definition of suspicious LLNs in rectal cancer, and different treatment approaches. International guidelines based on further research are warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-353
Number of pages9
JournalActa Chirurgica Belgica
Issue number4
Early online date24 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2023


  • Rectal cancer
  • lateral lymph node
  • multidisciplinary meeting
  • lymph node dissection
  • node-picking

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