A review of staging investigations in the preoperative evaluation of mediastinal involvement in primary bronchial carcinoma is presented. The following conclusions are offered as guidelines for the use of mediastinal staging procedures in clinical practice: Surgical staging methods have the over-riding advantage of superior specificity over indirect imaging techniques. Where 67Ga-imaging or CT scanning are not available, routine pre-operative mediastinoscopy or, when appropriate, mediastinotomy will identify most patients with non-resectable disease but this approach entails a high proportion of true negative examinations. Radioisotope ventilation and perfusion lung imaging has no place in the pre-operative staging of lung cancer. Where the techniques are available, 67Ga-imaging and CT scanning have a use in selecting patients for mediastinal exploration. A negative mediastinal 67Ga scan or a negative CT examination suggest that mediastinal exploration will be unrewarding in the vast majority of cases and may be omitted prior to thoracotomy. A positive mediastinal 67Ga scan or the demonstration of abnormal mediastinal nodes by CT is an indication for mediastinal exploration which, if negative should be followed by thoracotomy.
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