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Original Article
January 2003

Reliability of Sentinel Lymph Node Mapping With Biopsy for Head and Neck Cutaneous Melanoma

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (Drs Schmalbach, Nussenbaum, Johnson, and Bradford), Department of Surgery, Section of Plastic Surgery (Dr Rees and Johnson), and Department of Dermatology (Drs Schwartz and Johnson), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2003;129(1):61-65. doi:10.1001/archotol.129.1.61
Abstract

Objectives  To determine (1) the reliability of sentinel lymph node mapping with biopsy (SLNB) in head and neck cutaneous melanoma to accurately stage nodal basins and (2) the safety of SLNB in both the neck and parotid regions.

Design  Retrospective cohort study with a median follow-up of 25 months. All patients had a minimum follow-up of 1 year.

Setting  Academic medical center.

Patients  Eighty evaluable patients diagnosed as having head and neck cutaneous melanoma and staged using SLNB.

Interventions  Sentinel lymph nodes were identified using preoperative lymphoscintigraphy and a combination of intraoperative gamma probe and isosulfan blue dye. Patients with a SLN positive for melanoma underwent therapeutic lymphadenectomy followed by an evaluation for adjuvant therapies. Patients with a negative SLNB result were followed up clinically.

Main Outcome Measures  Percentage of positive SLNs, regional recurrence in the setting of a negative SLNB result (false-negative rate), and procedure complications.

Results  The mean Breslow depth was 2.35 mm. A SLN was identified in 77 (96.3%) of cases, with an average of 2.18 nodes per patient. Of the sentinel nodes identified, 74% were from the neck region. The remaining 26% were from the parotid basin. No facial nerve complications occurred. Of the patients, 14 (18%) were SLN positive for metastatic melanoma. The regional failure rate in the setting of a negative SLNB result was 4.5%.

Conclusions  Sentinel lymph node mapping with biopsy is a reliable technique to diagnose regional spread from head and neck cutaneous melanoma. This procedure can be performed in both neck and parotid nodal basins with safety and accuracy similar to non–head and neck sites.

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