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Ann Plast Surg. 1999 Jun;42(6):679-82.

Lymphoscintigraphy with sentinel lymph node biopsy in cutaneous Merkel cell carcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis, USA.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare cutaneous malignancy characterized by an aggressive clinical behavior with high rates of locoregional and systemic recurrence. Regional disease and distant metastases are associated with poor prognosis. Despite a predisposition of MCC to spread via the lymphatics, prophylactic lymph node dissection in the absence of clinically apparent lymph node involvement is controversial. The value of lymphoscintigraphy in cutaneous melanoma is established in lesions with ambiguous lymphatic drainage patterns. When used with sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB), it can identify subjects with occult regional node metastasis. The authors present 2 patients with MCC who underwent regional node staging with lymphoscintigraphy-directed SLNB. Both patients had sentinel nodes that were positive for metastatic disease. In patients with MCC, minimally invasive regional node staging SLNB may be useful in limiting the sequelae of routine lymphadenectomies. Whether early identification and treatment of patients with occult regional node disease can influence survival in MCC is not known.

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