Routine medical checkups have increased the detection of small renal tumors and, hence, the necessity for PN. Several investigators have reported that PN for small renal tumors achieves equivalent oncologic outcomes and better preservation of renal function compared with RN[3, 4]. Therefore, PN is now the gold standard treatment for small renal tumors.
However, local recurrence is a major problem after PN. A meta-analysis by American Urological Association Education and Research found a local recurrence rate of 2.0% after laparotomy PN, and 1.6% after laparoscopic PN.
Yossepowitch et al. reported clinical, pathological and follow-up data on 1,344 patients who underwent 1,390 partial nephrectomies for kidney cancer. In the report, the overall 5- and 10-year rates of freedom from local disease recurrence were 97% and 93%, respectively, and the rates of freedom from metastatic progression were 96% and 93%, respectively. Patients who undergo PN need medium- and long-term follow-up, not only for the possible development of distant metastases, but also for the presence of local recurrence.
Bernhard et al. reported 26 (3.2%) ipsilateral recurrences among 809 PNs that occurred at a median time of 27 (14.5–38.2) months after PN. The mean age at diagnosis was 59.3 ± 12.1 yr, and mean tumor size was 3.4 ± 1.9 cm. Twenty patients had purely local recurrence, whereas six had concurrent metastases. At the end of follow-up, 18 (69%) patients were still alive, six (23%) had died from cancer, and two (8%) had died from other causes. The risk of ipsilateral RCC recurrence after PN is significantly associated with tumor size > 4 cm, tumor bilaterality (synchronous or asynchronous), and positive surgical margin. Careful follow-up is recommended in patients presenting with such characteristics. In the present patient, the right renal tumor (3.5 cm) was removed, and the surgical margin was microscopically negative.
Systemic progression of RCC depends on tumor access to microvasculature; hence, available data from several studies on this topic have indicated a significant prognostic value of MVI in such patients[9, 10]. Dall’Oglio et al. demonstrated the discriminator role of MVI as a prognostic factor for RCC. These investigators found that 5-year disease-free rates were 87.1% for MVI-negative cases vs. 32.6% for MVI-positive cases. In their report, MVI was the most significant predictor of RCC outcome compared with other variables such as tumor size, Fuhrman grade and sarcomatoid degeneration. In our patient, although the surgical margin was pathologically negative, MVI was positive. The site of tumor recurrence was distinct from the site of previous surgical resection. Considering the development of tumor recurrence at the renal sinus and extension into the IVC, MVI was probably responsible for the recurrence pattern in this patient. As far as we know, this is the first case of local recurrence of RCC after PN extending into the IVC. A probable cause of the rarity of advanced recurrence after PN is early discovery with strict follow-up. Our experience suggests that there might potentially be many other cases of recurrence extending into the IVC.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines provide recommendations for follow-up after PN. Although follow-up plans should be individualized based on patient and tumor characteristics, one strategy proposes chest and abdominal imaging every 6 months for 2 years and annually for 5 years thereafter. As our patient’s renal function (BUN, 15.6 mg/ml; Cr, 1.53 mg/dl) was poor and the PN specimen was strongly positive for MVI, non-enhanced abdominal CT was performed every 4 months. Retrospective evaluation of non-enhanced abdominal CT demonstrated swelling of the right renal vein 20 months after PN. However, since the renal shape was unaltered, we could not detect local recurrence at that time. As in our patient, it is necessary to perform enhanced abdominal CT, MRI or abdominal ultrasonography after PN in order to earlier detect recurrence at the renal sinus with extension into the IVC. Despite the significant likelihood of recurrence of RCC in surgical margin- and MVI-positive cases, there is no established evidence supporting adjuvant therapy in these patients after surgery. Future clinical trials should investigate the most efficacious adjuvant strategy and agent. Our case report emphasizes the importance of pre-operative imaging which should be best performed with adequate modality and strict surveillance of patients after PN, especially for those with RCC positive for MVI.