The results obtained with primary retroperitoneal lymph-node dissection (RPLND) in 464 patients with clinical stage A nonseminomatous germ-cell (NSGC) testicular cancer over a period of 25 years (1965-1989) were reviewed. Results were analyzed in clinical terms and subdivided into early (1965-1978) and contemporary (1979-1989) findings so as to be comparable with series using radiotherapy or surveillance. Between 1965 and 1978 (86 clinical stage A patients), the overall relapse rate of 15% (n=13) was similar to that obtained in radiotherapy series but the survival (98.8% after RPLND) was superior to that achieved with irradiation (87%). From 1979 to 1989, 378 clinical stage A cases had primary RPLND, of whom 29% (n=111) had cancerous nodes. The relapse rate for pathological stage A patients (n=267) was 11% and two patients died. The rate of relapse for pathological stage B patients who did not receive adjuvant chemotherapy was 32%. No relapse was seen among 46 pathological stage B patients given postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy. The mortality of 0.7% observed among 378 clinical stage A RPLND cases was lower than the 2% value reported in surveillance series. Although not statistically significant, these consistent results reported for two eras (pre- and postplatinum) spanning a period of 25 years suggest a sound basis for the surgical approach. The anatomic and medical principles in oncology, which have supported this approach, remain cogent today. They are discussed herein. Now that nerve-sparing techniques have been developed, the one long-term morbidity of RPLND (i.e., anejaculation) can be avoided. It would seem appropriate to have nerve-sparing RPLND techniques in any armamentarium dealing with clinical stage A disease.
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