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Ophthalmology. 2009 Nov;116(11):2217-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2009.04.012. Epub 2009 Sep 19.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy for ocular adnexal melanoma: experience in 30 patients.

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Section of Ophthalmology, Department of Head and Neck Surgery, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.



To report the findings on sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) in 30 patients with ocular adnexal (conjunctival or eyelid) melanomas.


Prospective nonrandomized clinical trial.


Thirty patients with diagnosis of eyelid or conjunctival melanoma.


All patients with ocular adnexal melanoma who underwent SLNB at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center between December 2000 and July 2008 are the subject of this report. Sentinel lymph node biopsy was performed as previously described by our group, and patients were prospectively followed up.


Findings on preoperative lymphoscintigraphy, SLNB, histopathologic examination of the primary tumor and sentinel lymph nodes (SNL), and nodal recurrence after SLNB.


Tumor sites were as follows: bulbar conjunctiva only, 14 patients; palpebral conjunctiva only, 8 patients; both bulbar and palpebral conjunctiva, 4 patients; and eyelid skin only, 4 patients. At least 1 SLN was identified in all patients. The median number of SLNs removed was 2 (range, 1-5). The most common basin sampled was the intraparotid (16 patients), followed by submandibular (level I) (11 patients), preauricular (9 patients), and superior cervical (level II) (6 patients). Five patients had SLN metastasis. Among the 25 patients with negative SLNB findings, there were 2 false-negative events. There were no false-negative events among patients treated during the last 4.5 years of the study. The mean Breslow thickness was 2.57 mm (range, 0.62-12 mm) among patients with negative SLNB and 4.86 mm (range, 2.0-7.2 mm) among patients with positive SLNB findings (P = 0.055). Ulceration was present in 11 patients (39%): 4 (80%) of 5 patients with positive SLNB and 7 (28%) of 25 with negative SLNB, including both patients with false-negative results. The median time from SLNB to last contact was 2 years (range, 10 months to 6 years).


Sentinel lymph node biopsy is effective for identifying nodal micrometastasis in patients with ocular adnexal melanoma and provides important prognostic information. The false-negative event rate in our series improved in the last 4 years, most likely because of a better technique and better patient selection for SLNB. We recommend consideration of SLNB for patients with intermediate-thickness ocular adnexal melanoma and those with ulceration.

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