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J Am Coll Surg. 2002 Aug;195(2):167-72.

Reoperative sentinel lymph node biopsy: a new option for patients with primary or locally recurrent breast carcinoma.

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  • 1Breast Service, Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA.



Sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy is a new standard of care for axillary node staging in patients with primary operable breast cancer. An increasing proportion of these patients undergo breast-conserving surgery, and 10% to 15% will develop local relapse requiring reoperation. Although previous breast or axillary surgery is often considered a contraindication to SLN biopsy, few data support this position. We report our experience with SLN biopsy in the reoperative setting.


We examined the 3,490 consecutive SLN biopsy procedures for breast cancer performed at our institution between September 1996 and July 2001; 32 (1%) of these followed previous axillary surgery: 22 (69%) for breast recurrence after SLN biopsy or axillary lymph node dissection (ALND); 7 (22%) after a recent, failed SLN biopsy or inadequate ALND; and 3 (9%) after earlier axillary surgery for an unrelated condition.


SLNs were identified in 24 of 32 (75%) cases and were positive in 3 of 24 (13%). Reoperative SLN biopsy was more successful when less than 10 versus 10 or more nodes had been removed previously (87% versus 44%). Both blue dye and isotope identified the SLN in 16 of 24 successful procedures (67%). Additional, nonsentinel nodes (mean, eight nodes) were removed in 17 of 24 patients (71%) and were negative in all cases. At a median followup of 13 months, no axillary recurrences have occurred.


Reoperative SLN biopsy after earlier SLN biopsy or ALND is feasible in selected breast cancer patients and is more likely to succeed when fewer than 10 nodes were removed during the earlier procedure. Further study is required to better define the subset of patients in whom reoperative SLN biopsy can replace ALND.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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