Background: To examine the prognostic value of lymphovascular invasion (LVI) in different tumor locations (i.e., renal pelvis and ureter) of upper urinary tract urothelial carcinoma (UTUC). Methods: Data from a total of 250 patients with nonmetastatic UTUC who received radical nephroureterectomy between 2004 and 2010 at our institution were analyzed retrospectively. The significance of LVI and other relevant factors on cancer-specific survival (CSS), metastasis-free survival (MFS), and intraluminal recurrence-free survival (IRFS) were evaluated. Results: Lymphovascular invasion was present in 60 patients (24 %) and was related to advanced pathological T stage (P < 0.001), higher tumor grade (P < 0.001), lymph node metastasis (P = 0.005), and pyelocaliceal tumor location (P = 0.002). By Kaplan–Meier analysis, LVI was found to be significantly correlated with worse CSS and MFS but not with IRFS. Multivariate analysis showed that high pathological T stage and regional lymph node involvement were significant prognostic factors for CSS and MFS, and LVI was an independent predictor for MFS (hazard ratio 1.71, 95 % confidence interval 1.00–2.93, P = 0.049). In patients with ureteral tumors, LVI represented the only significant prognosticator for both CSS and MFS in multivariate analysis. The prognostic value of LVI was not observed in pyelocaliceal tumors. Conclusions: The implication of LVI on prognosis, particularly in ureteral tumors but not in pyelocaliceal tumors, may imply diverse disease characteristics between different tumor locations among UTUC. LVI is essential to identify patients at high risk for metastasis/mortality and can facilitate treatment planning and surveillance strategies, especially in patients with ureteral tumors.
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