Invasive staging: The guidelines

Frank C. Detterbeck*, Malcolm M. DeCamp, Leslie J. Kohman, Gerard A. Silvestri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


A variety of invasive staging tests are available, including mediastinoscopy, thoracoscopy (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery), transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA), transthoracic needle aspiration (TTNA), and endoscopic ultrasound with fine needle aspiration (EUS-NA). Each of these tests requires specific skills, has particular risks, and has technical considerations making it more or less suitable for masses in particular locations. Therefore, direct comparisons among the tests are not possible, and the issue is to define which procedure is most useful for a particular situation. Invasive staging procedures are sometimes used to confirm the stage of a lung cancer, ie, when radiographic staging is not reliable. However, invasive staging procedures are also often used to confirm the diagnosis (ie, when the radiographic stage is reliable). The first situation requires a test with a low false-negative rate; the latter requires a test with high sensitivity. Clinicians must be clear about the question at hand and how to assess the value of a test when selecting an invasive staging procedure. When confirmation of the diagnosis is the primary issue, TBNA (or EUS-NA, if available) are good choices because of high sensitivity and low morbidity. When the primary issue is to confirm that there is no involvement of mediastinal lymph nodes, mediastinoscopy appears to be best suited to most situations. When the primary goal is to confirm malignant involvement of mediastinal nodes, mediastinoscopy also appears to be best in general, although TBNA, TTNA, and EUS-NA may be reasonable alternatives in certain situations. However, selection of a test will also depend on the local availability of expertise, and patient-specific anatomic and physiologic considerations. Selection of the optimal approach is best achieved through a multidisciplinary discussion so that all aspects can be weighed appropriately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167S-175S
Issue number1 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 2003


  • Anterior mediastinotomy
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Clinical staging
  • Esophageal ultrasound
  • Mediastinal lymph nodes
  • Mediastinoscopy
  • Pathologic staging
  • Staging
  • Transbronchial needle aspiration
  • Transthoracic needle aspiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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