Sentinel node guided surgery for melanoma in the head and neck region

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21 Scopus citations


Sentinel lymph node biopsy may be more technically challenging for melanoma of the head and neck compared with other locations because of the complex lymphatic drainage patterns. This study demonstrates the value of sentinel node biopsy for head and neck melanoma, and highlights the associated difficulties. Thirty consecutive patients with primary cutaneous melanoma of the head and neck (n=26) or draining to the neck (n=4) underwent preoperative lymphoscintigraphy. This was followed by intraoperative lymphatic mapping using blue dye alone (n=8) or in combination with a hand-held gamma probe (n=22) and sentinel lymphadenectomy. Modified neck dissection was performed in all patients with positive sentinel nodes. The study population had a male pre-dominance (73%). Most lesions were nodular and were not ulcerated. In two patients (6.2%) preoperative lymphoscintigraphy failed to demonstrate the draining nodes, which were retrieved by surgery, and in two patients (6.2%) the sentinel node was not found at surgery despite preoperative visualization. Overall, the sentinel node was identified 93% of the time: in seven out of eight cases (88%) using blue dye alone, and in 21 out of 22 cases (96%) using a combination of blue dye and gamma probe. Four out of 28 basins were deemed positive for metastases. Twenty-three of the 24 patients with negative sentinel nodes were free of disease at a median of 31 months (range 9-91 months). There was one false-negative case salvaged by surgery. The sentinel node technique is technically demanding but advantageous for most patients with head and neck melanoma. Identification rates seem to be better when preoperative lymphoscintigraphy is combined with intraoperative blue dye mapping and a hand-held gamma probe. The relative contribution of each component could not be determined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-287
Number of pages5
JournalMelanoma Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Head and neck
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Patent blue
  • Sentinel node lymphoscintigraphy


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