Introduction: Suboptimal pathologic nodal staging prevails after curative-intent resection of lung cancer. We evaluated the impact of a lymph node specimen collection kit on lung cancer surgery outcomes in a prospective, population-based, staggered implementation study. Methods: From January 1, 2014, to August 28, 2018, we implemented the kit in three homogeneous institutional cohorts involving 11 eligible hospitals from four contiguous hospital referral regions. Our primary outcome was pathologic nodal staging quality, defined by the following evidence-based measures: the number of lymph nodes or stations examined, proportions with poor-quality markers such as nonexamination of lymph nodes, and aggregate quality benchmarks including the National Comprehensive Cancer Network criteria. Additional outcomes included perioperative complications, health care utilization, and overall survival. Results: Of 1492 participants, 56% had resection with the kit and 44% without. Pathologic nodal staging quality was significantly higher in the kit cases: 0.2% of kit cases versus 9.8% of nonkit cases had no lymph nodes examined; 3.2% versus 25.3% had no mediastinal lymph nodes; 75% versus 26% attained the National Comprehensive Cancer Network criteria (p < 0.0001 for all comparisons). Kit cases revealed no difference in perioperative complications or health care utilization except for significantly shorter duration of surgery, lower proportions with atelectasis, and slightly higher use of blood transfusion. Resection with the kit was associated with a lower hazard of death (crude, 0.78 [95% confidence interval: 0.61–0.99]; adjusted 0.85 [0.71–1.02]). Conclusions: Lung cancer surgery with a lymph node collection kit significantly improved pathologic nodal staging quality, with a trend toward survival improvement, without excessive perioperative morbidity or mortality.
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