The awareness of radiologists for the presence of lateral lymph nodes in patients with locally advanced rectal cancer: a single-centre, retrospective cohort study

T. C. Sluckin, Y. F. L. Rooker, S. Q. Kol, S. J. A. Hazen, J. B. Tuynman, J. Stoker, P. J. Tanis, K. Horsthuis, M. Kusters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives: Enlarged lateral lymph nodes (LLNs) are associated with increased (lateral) local recurrence rates. Size and anatomical location should therefore always be reported by radiologists and discussed during multidisciplinary meetings. The objective was to investigate how often LLNs are mentioned in MRI reports in a tertiary referral centre. Methods: A single - centre, retrospective study of 202 patients treated for primary rectal cancer between 2012 and 2020, with at least a T2 tumour located within 12cm of the anorectal junction. The radiology reports were written by 30–40 consultant radiologists. MRI scans were independently re-assessed by an expert radiologist. The primary outcome was how often the presence or absence of LLNs was mentioned in the initial report. Results: Primary MRI reports explicitly mentioned the presence or absence of LLNs in 89 (44%) cases. Of the 43 reports with present LLNs, only one (1%) reported on all features such as size, location or malignant features. Expert review revealed 17 LLNs which were ≥ 7 mm (short-axis); two of these were not mentioned in the original reports. In 14/43 (33%) cases, LLNs were discussed during the primary multidisciplinary meeting, while 17/43 (40%) restaging MRI reports failed to report on the previously visible LLN. Reporting LLNs increased significantly with higher N-stage (p =.010) and over time (p =.042). Conclusions: Though improving with time, there is still limited consistency in reporting LLNs. Only 44% of primary MRI reports mentioned LLNs and relevant features of those LLNs were seldomly reported. Given the importance of this information for subsequent treatment; increased awareness, proper training and the use of templates are needed. Key Points: • Comprehensive reporting of lateral lymph nodes in primary MRI reports was limited to less than 50%. • Lateral lymph nodes are not always discussed during primary multidisciplinary meetings or mentioned in restaging reports. • Improvements in the awareness and knowledge of lateral lymph nodes are needed to ensure adequate multidisciplinary treatment decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6637-6645
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Radiology
Issue number10
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

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