Epitrochlear lymph nodes as a site of melanoma metastasis

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The incidence of epitrochlear lymph node metastasis for patients with melanomas on the hand or forearm is disputed, and management guidelines for these nodes are unclear.


The records of 13,139 consecutive melanoma patients were reviewed to document the incidence of metastatic disease in epitrochlear nodes. The frequency of direct lymphatic drainage to epitrochlear nodes was determined for 109 patients with melanomas of the distal upper limb who had undergone preoperative lymphoscintigraphy.


Nine of 801 patients (1.1%) with upper limb primary melanomas developed metastatic disease in an epitrochlear node, and one other patient with an occult primary tumor did so. Six of these ten patients underwent elective axillary node dissection at the time of surgery for epitrochlear node disease, and three were found to have metastatic disease in an axillary node. Epitrochlear node metastasis occurred in only two of 83 (2.4%) patients with upper extremity melanoma who underwent therapeutic axillary dissection. Of the 109 patients who underwent lymphoscintigraphy, four (3.7%) demonstrated lymphatic drainage to an epitrochlear node.


Epitrochlear nodal involvement from melanoma of the distal upper extremity is rare, and routine epitrochlear node clearance at the time of either elective or therapeutic axillary dissection for upper extremity melanoma is not indicated. However, it is desirable to perform an axillary dissection whenever surgery for metastatic disease in an epitrochlear node is performed.

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