Background Indocyanine green (ICG) fluorescence has been recently introduced as a novel imaging technique improving the accuracy of lymph node (LN) dissection in gastric cancer (GC) surgery, although procedure standardization and achievements have not been clearly defined. This study analyzed the feasibility and effectiveness of ICG-guidance for laparoscopic D2-lymphadenectomy during total gastrectomy for cancer. Methods This study retrospectively analyzed a single-center series of patients who underwent laparoscopic total gastrectomy for cancer between April 2015 and August 2021. All patients underwent surgery with standard D2 LN dissection. Intraoperative ICG-fluorescence was institutionally implemented in April 2018 and was performed routinely afterward. Primary outcomes were LN harvest and ratio. Secondary endpoints included operative time and subgroup analysis to assess variables potentially affecting LN retrieval. Results The study population included 102 patients, and ICG-fluorescence was applied in 38 (37.3%). ICG and no-ICG groups presented similar median age, gender proportions, ASA score and comorbidities (age-adjusted Charlson Comorbidity Index), body mass index, and advanced pathological stage. The median of LNs retrieved was significantly higher after the intraoperative ICG-guidance (44 vs. 32; p = 0.004), although this association was not significant after neoadjuvant therapy or among patients with positive LNs. Lymph node ratio and operative time were not significantly impacted by ICG fluorescence. Multivariate analysis identified the ICG-assistance as the only independent determinant for LN harvest (p = 0.029). Conclusions ICG-guidance contributes to a significantly wider LN retrieval after laparoscopic D2-lymphadenectomy during total gastrectomy for cancer. However, neoadjuvant therapy and positive LN stage appeared to limit the procedural effectiveness to ICG-assisted LN identification.
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