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JAMA. 2012 Sep 12;308(10):1007-14. doi: 10.1001/2012.jama.11030.

Association between sentinel lymph node excision with or without preoperative SPECT/CT and metastatic node detection and disease-free survival in melanoma.

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Department of Dermatology, Venerology, and Allergology, University of Essen-Duisburg, Essen, Germany.



Malignant melanoma has become an increasing interdisciplinary public health challenge worldwide. Sentinel lymph node excision (SLNE) is considered the most sensitive and specific staging test for the detection of micrometastatic melanoma in regional lymph nodes.


To compare metastatic node detection and disease-free survival using single-photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT)-aided SLNE vs standard SLNE in patients with melanoma.


A prospective, computerized melanoma patient database at the University Hospital Essen, Skin Cancer Center, Essen, Germany, was used to identify a cohort of 464 patients eligible for SLNE between March 2003 and April 2011. A total of 403 patients with clinically negative lymph nodes, who underwent SLNE with or without preoperative SPECT/CT, qualified for subsequent analysis.


Metastatic node detection and disease-free survival.


Between March 2003 and October 2008, 254 patients underwent the standard SLNE technique. After November 2008, 149 patients underwent the SPECT/CT technique. Patients who did not receive SNLE in both intervals (46/300 [15.34%] for standard cohort vs 15/164 [9.15%] for SPECT/CT cohort; P = .06) did not differ in either age (difference, 69.20 years; 95% CI, 62.84-72.07 years; P = .38), tumor depth (difference, 2.90 mm; 95% CI, 2.87-4.54 mm; P = .54), or ulceration of the primary tumor (difference, -8.00%; 95% CI, -35.74% to 19.81%; P = .59). However, using SPECT/CT allowed SLNE in the head and neck area more frequently (2.0% for standard vs 23.5% for SPECT/CT; difference, 21.1%; 95% CI, 14.1%-28.2%; P < .001). In the SPECT/CT cohort, more sentinel lymph nodes per patient were detected than in the standard cohort (2.40 vs 1.87; 95% CI, 1.93-2.18; P < .001). The number of positive sentinel lymph nodes per patient was significantly higher in the SPECT/CT cohort than in the standard cohort (0.34 vs 0.21; 95% CI, 0.21-0.31; P = .04). The local relapse rate in the SPECT/CT cohort was lower than in the standard cohort (6.8% vs 23.8%, P = .03), which prolonged 4-year disease-free survival (93.9% vs 79.2%; P = .02).


Among patients with clinically lymph node-negative melanoma, the use of SPECT/CT-aided SLNE compared with SLNE alone was associated with a higher frequency of metastatic involvement and a higher rate of disease-free survival.

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