Surgical Management of Regional Lymph Nodes in Patients with Melanoma Experience with 4682 Patients

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Summary Background Data

Large retrospective studies suggest that ELND may improve the prognosis of patients with intermediate-thickness melanomas; however, that improvement has not been observed in two randomized prospective controlled trials.


The charts of 4682 patients treated at a single institution for localized or regional disease were reviewed individually. The median follow-up was 4.7 years, with 814 patients followed more than 10 years. The data were tabulated and evaluated with the aid of a computer data base system.


Among patients with nodal metastases, 10% of nodal metastases were to contralateral nodes, and 6% were to nodal basins that would not be predicted by classic models of lymphatic drainage; in 13% of patients, nodal metastases occurred to greater than one nodal basin (3% of the entire study group). For all thickness ranges, the incidence of nodal metastases was comparable to the incidence of distant metastases; intermediate-thickness lesions had no relative predilection for nodal metastases. At the initial evaluation, regional nodal basins were clinically negative in 3550 patients, of whom 911 (25.7%) underwent ELND. Stratified into five thickness groups (< 0.76 mm, 0.76 to 1.5 mm, 1.5 to 2.5 mm, 2.5 to 4 mm, and > 4 mm), pathologically positive nodes were identified in 0%, 5%, 16%, 24%, and 36%, respectively (16% overall). Among the 911 patients who underwent ELND, 214 (23%) had nodal metastases, 143 at the time of ELND and 71 at a later date. Of these 71 patients, 31 (44%) had nodal metastases in a previously dissected nodal basin, and 40 (56%) had them in basins not previously dissected. The survival of

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