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Oral Oncol. 2015 Sep;51(9):819-23. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2015.06.006. Epub 2015 Jun 27.

The history of sentinel node biopsy in head and neck cancer: From visualization of lymphatic vessels to sentinel nodes.

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Department of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology, UMC Utrecht Cancer Center, UMCU Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands; Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic address:
Melanoma Institute Australia, North Sydney, Australia; The Mater Hospital, North Sydney, Australia; Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia; Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


The aim of this report is to describe the history of sentinel node biopsy in head and neck cancer. Sentinel node biopsy is a minimally invasive technique to select patients for treatment of metastatic lymph nodes in the neck. Although this procedure has only recently been accepted for early oral cancer, the first studies on visualization of the cervical lymphatic vessels were reported in the 1960s. In the 1980s mapping of lymphatic drainage from specific head and neck sites was introduced. Sentinel node biopsy was further developed in the 1990s and after validation in this century the procedure is routinely performed in early oral cancer in several head and neck centers. New techniques may improve the accuracy of sentinel node biopsy further, particularly in difficult subsites like the floor of mouth.


Head and neck cancer; History; Lymphangiography; Lymphatic system; Lymphoscintigraphy; Oral cancer; Sentinel node

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