Background: Enlarged lymph nodes (ELN) pose a great diagnostic challenge. They may represent the first clinical finding of a hematologic disease or other malignancy and may be an indication of a wide range of infectious and non-infectious diseases. Because many patients undergo percutaneous biopsy, surgical excisional biopsy is not often considered.
Objectives: To analyze indications for a patient's referral for surgical biopsy of ELN and diagnostic steps to follow until referral, and to determine the number of ELN.
Methods: A retrospective study was conducted of prospectively collected data of patients who underwent surgical biopsy of ELN from January 2004 to December 2013.
Results: Of 118 patients who underwent surgical biopsy of ELN, only 52 (44%) had needle biopsy (NB) before referral. Lymphoma was diagnosed by NB in 24 (46%) of the referred patients. In patients with a previous diagnosis of lymphoma, NB of ELN yielded a sensitivity of 67% and specificity of 79%. In patients with lymphadenopathy but with no previous history of malignancy, sensitivity for lymphoma was 68% and specificity was 71%. The investigative time period until final diagnosis was 3 months in patients who had NB but only 1.25 months in patients who were referred directly for surgery (P < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Surgical biopsy of ELN still has a place in the clinical evaluation of patients with ELN. Surgery may significantly reduce the length of investigation and prevent unnecessary diagnostics, especially in patients with suspected lymphoma recurrence.