Sentinel lymph node biopsy in melanoma of the head and neck.
BACKGROUND: The sentinel lymph node is the first node or nodes to drain a cutaneous melanoma. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed to determine whether regional metastases are present. The authors' experience with the new technique of sentinel lymph node biopsy for melanoma of the head and neck is reported. PATIENTS AND METHODS: During the period of January of 1992 to December of 1995, 58 consecutive patients were identified from the melanoma database who had localization of the sentinel lymph node for primary cutaneous melanoma of the head and neck. Techniques for identification of the sentinel node(s) include preoperative lymphoscintigraphy and intraoperative Lymphazurin dye (vital blue dye) and technetium-99m-labeled sulfur colloid injection around the primary tumor site with Neoprobe mapping. RESULTS: Fifty-eight patients (13 female, 45 male), mean age 61 years, with melanoma of the head and neck with a mean Breslow thickness of 2.21 mm. (range, 0.82-6.87 mm.) and no regional lymphadenopathy underwent sentinel node mapping. The sentinel node was successfully identified in 55 patients (95 percent). Blue dye was visualized in 85 of 126 sentinel nodes excised (67 percent), whereas the remainder of the sentinel nodes were localized with the Neoprobe. Forty-nine patients who had successful mapping and sentinel node biopsy had no evidence of metastatic disease in the sentinel node or other nodes in the basin. Six of the fifty-five patients (11 percent) had evidence of micrometastatic disease, and all six had the sentinel node as the only site of metastasis. Five of six patients with micrometastases had a subsequent neck dissection and/or superficial parotidectomy. None of these patients had evidence of "skip metastases" with a negative sentinel node and higher level nodes positive for metastases. In total, 6 of the 18 sentinel nodes (33 percent) identified in these six patients contained micrometastatic disease, whereas none of the 139 other nodes sampled had any evidence of metastases. The exact probability that all six unpaired observations would consist of involvement of only the sentinel nodes is p = 0.0312. CONCLUSIONS: By combining the two mapping techniques in patients with melanoma of the head and neck, the sentinel node(s) can be mapped and identified individually, similar to melanoma in other locations. The sentinel nodes have been shown to contain the first evidence of regional metastatic melanoma. This staging information can be used to plan therapeutic node dissections and adjuvant therapy that may have a survival benefit in patients with stage III melanoma of the head and neck. Lymphatic mapping can be used to make the surgical care of the melanoma patient more conservative, so that only those patients with solid evidence of regional node metastases are subjected to the morbidity and expense of a complete node dissection and the toxicities of adjuvant therapy.
Wells, KE; Rapaport, DP; Cruse, CW; Payne, W; Albertini, J; Berman, C; Lyman, GH; Reintgen, DS
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