Quality Indicator For Colon Cancer Surgeries Questioned

Armen Hareyan's picture

Having larger numbers of lymph nodes examined for cancer is not necessarily linked to better survival rates or higher quality surgery.


Detecting cancer in lymph nodes following surgery lets doctors determine how advanced the cancer is and whether chemotherapy is appropriate. Using the number of lymph nodes examined after colon cancer surgery, or colectomy, as a hospital quality indicator is gaining momentum. In fact, the examination of 12 lymph nodes as a quality indicator after colectomy was recently endorsed by the National Quality Forum, a respected organization that focuses on health care quality measurement and reporting, and is rapidly being adopted by major payers in pay for performance initiatives. But is more necessarily better?

In a study appearing in the Nov. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School find that examining a specific number of lymph nodes after a colectomy to remove part or all of the colon is not associated with the length of patient survival.

"Hospitals vary widely in the number of lymph nodes examined.

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