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Radiology. 2009 Jan;250(1):41-9. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2493071483. Epub 2008 Oct 27.

Axillary lymph nodes suspicious for breast cancer metastasis: sampling with US-guided 14-gauge core-needle biopsy--clinical experience in 100 patients.

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Department of Radiology, University of Chicago, 5841 S Maryland Ave, MC 2026, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.



To study the clinical usefulness of ultrasonography (US)-guided core-needle biopsy (CNB) of axillary lymph nodes and the US-depicted abnormalities that may be used to predict nodal metastases.


This retrospective study was HIPAA compliant and institutional review board approved; the requirement for informed patient consent was waived. US-guided 14-gauge CNB of abnormal axillary lymph nodes was performed in 100 of 144 patients with primary breast cancer who underwent US assessment of axillary lymph nodes. A biopsy needle with controllable action rather than a traditional throw-type needle was used. US findings were considered suspicious for metastasis if cortical thickening and/or nonhilar blood flow (NHBF) to the lymph node cortex was present. The absence of any discernible fatty hilum was also noted.


Nodal metastases were documented at CNB in 64 (64%) of the 100 patients. All 36 patients with negative biopsy results underwent subsequent sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB), which yielded negative findings in 32 (89%) patients and revealed metastasis in four (11%). All 44 patients who did not undergo CNB because of negative US results subsequently underwent SLNB, which revealed lymph node metastasis in 12 (27%) patients. Cortical thickening was found in 63 (79%) of the total of 80 metastatic nodes, but only a minority (n = 26 [32%]) of the nodes had an absent fatty hilum. NHBF to the cortex was detected in 52 (65%) metastatic nodes. Both absence of a fatty hilum (metastasis detected in 26 [93%] of 28 nodes) and cortical thickening combined with NHBF (metastasis detected in 52 [81%] of 64 nodes) had a high positive predictive value. No clinically important complications were encountered with the biopsy procedures.


Axillary lymph nodes with abnormal US findings can be sampled with high accuracy and without major complications by using a modified 14-gauge CNB technique.

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