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J Clin Oncol. 2000 Aug;18(15):2811-6.

Sentinel lymph node procedure is highly accurate in squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva.

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Departments of Gynecologic Oncology, Pathology, and Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.



To determine the diagnostic accuracy of the sentinel lymph node procedure in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva and to investigate whether step sectioning and immunohistochemistry of sentinel lymph nodes increase the sensitivity for detection of metastases.


Between July 1996 and July 1999, 59 patients with primary vulvar cancer were entered onto a two-center prospective study. All patients underwent sentinel lymph node procedure with the combined technique (preoperative lymphoscintigraphy with technetium-99m-labeled nanocolloid and intraoperative blue dye). Radical excision of the primary tumor with uni- or bilateral inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy was performed subsequently. Sentinel lymph nodes and lymphadenectomy specimens were sent for histopathologic examination separately. Sentinel lymph nodes, negative at the time of routine pathologic examination, were re-examined with step sectioning and immunohistochemistry.


In 59 patients, 107 inguinofemoral lymphadenectomies were performed (11 unilateral and 48 bilateral). All sentinel lymph nodes, as observed on preoperative lymphoscintigram, were identified successfully intraoperatively. Routine histopathologic examination showed lymph node metastases in 27 groins, all of which were detected by the sentinel lymph node procedure. The negative predictive value for a negative sentinel lymph node was 100% (97.5% confidence interval [CI], 95% to 100%). Step sectioning and immunohistochemistry showed four additional metastases in 102 sentinel lymph nodes (4%; 95% CI, 1% to 9%) that were negative at the time of routine histopathologic examination.


Sentinel lymph node procedure with the combined technique is highly accurate in predicting the inguinofemoral lymph node status in patients with early-stage vulvar cancer. Future trials should focus on the safe clinical implementation of the sentinel lymph node procedure in these patients. Step sectioning and immunohistochemistry slightly increase the sensitivity of detecting metastases in sentinel lymph nodes and should be included in these trials.

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