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J Nucl Med. 1999 Jul;40(7):1143-8.

99mTc-human serum albumin: an effective radiotracer for identifying sentinel lymph nodes in melanoma.

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Department of Surgery, Pigmented Lesion Clinic, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy has emerged as a novel approach for identifying patients with melanoma and regional nodal micrometastasis who may benefit from full nodal basin resection. To identify the pattern of tumor lymphatic drainage and the SLN, lymphoscintigraphy has been performed using primarily 99mTc-sulfur colloid (SC). In this study, we compare the efficacy of SLN biopsy using 99mTc-human serum albumin (HSA) with SLN biopsy after SC-based lymphoscintigraphy.


One hundred and six patients with localized cutaneous melanoma were studied. Lymphoscintigraphy was performed after intradermal injection of HSA in 85 patients and SC in 21 patients. Four patients underwent lymphoscintigraphy twice, once with SC and once with HSA. Dynamic images were acquired for up to 1 h, followed by high-count images of the SLN in various projections so that the most likely site was marked on the skin for biopsy. Intraoperatively, blue dye was injected around the primary site. Twenty-four patients underwent SLN dissection directed by preoperative lymphoscintigraphy and vital blue dye mapping; in the remaining 80 patients, a gamma probe was added intraoperatively to the localization procedure. Two patients underwent mapping with gamma probe alone.


Draining lymphatic basins and nodes were identified by lymphoscintigraphy in all patients. The SLN was identified in 95% of patients when both blue dye and intraoperative gamma probe were used. When 99mTc-HSA was used for imaging, 98% of the SLNs ultimately identified were radiolabeled, and 82% were both hot and blue. Of the SLN recovered with SC, all the nodes were radiolabeled; however, there was only 58% hot and blue concordance. Greater numbers of SLNs were removed in the SC group (median 2.0 versus 1.0, P = 0.02); however, the incidence of micrometastasis was statistically similar in both HSA and SC cohorts. In the 4 patients examined with both tracers, SLN mapping was similar.


Although SC has been the radiotracer of choice for SLN mapping in melanoma, HSA appears to be a suitable alternative, with identical success rates. In fact, the higher concordance between hot and blue nodes using HSA suggests superiority of this tracer for this purpose.

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