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Ann Surg Oncol. 2011 Oct;18(10):2919-24. doi: 10.1245/s10434-011-1689-0. Epub 2011 Apr 6.

Selective sentinel lymph node dissection for melanoma: importance of harvesting nodes with lower radioactive counts without the need for blue dye.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.



Determining how many sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) should be removed for melanoma is important. The purpose of this study is to determine the frequency at which nodes that are less radioactive than the "hottest" node (which is negative) are positive for melanoma, how low of a radioactivity should warrant harvest, and if isosulfan blue is necessary.


We reviewed 1,152 melanoma patients who underwent lymphoscintigraphy with technetium, with or without blue dye, and SLN dissection from 1996 to 2008. SLNs with radioactivity ≥10% of the "hottest" SLN, all blue nodes, and all suspicious nodes were removed and analyzed. The miss rate was calculated as the proportion of node positive cases in which the "hottest" SLN was negative.


SLNs were identified in 1,520 nodal basins in 1,152 patients. SLN micrometastases were detected in 218 basins (14%) in 204 patients (18%). In 16% of SLN-positive patients (33/204 patients), the positive SLN was found to have a lower radioactive count than the "hottest" SLN, which was negative. In 21 of these cases, the positive SLNs had radioactivity ≤50% of the "hottest" SLN. The 10% rule significantly reduced the miss rate to 2.5% compared with removal of only the "hottest" SLN (miss rate = 16%). Also, blue dye did not significantly decrease the miss rate compared with radiocolloid alone using the 10% rule.


To decrease the miss rate, all SLNs with ≥10% of the ex vivo radioactivity of the "hottest" SLN should be removed and blue dye is not essential.

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