Evaluation of Nodal Patterns for Melanoma of the Ear

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Treatment of malignant melanoma of the external ear presents unique challenges. Because of the significant debate regarding the efficacy and validity of using sentinel lymph node mapping for the treatment of ear melanomas, data for a population of patients with melanomas of the ear who underwent surgical excision and reconstruction were reviewed to determine the efficacy of sentinel node mapping. A retrospective chart review of cases treated by a single surgical oncologist was performed. All patients who were treated for malignant melanomas and required reconstruction of the external ear by the plastic surgical service between 1995 and 2001 were identified. Nineteen patients were selected, of whom nine underwent sentinel node mapping. The average age of the patients was 65.2 years. Evaluation of melanoma depth, medical history, surgical margins, lymph node metastasis, and recurrence was performed. Lymphoscintigraphy with technetium-99-sulfur colloid and 1% Lymphazurin (isosulfan blue; Zenith Parenterals, Rosemont, Ill.) demonstrated widely variable lymphatic drainage patterns. The lower tail of the parotid gland and the upper cervical area were the two most common locations. The average number of sentinel nodes identified and removed was 3.7. The average Breslow thickness for these patients was 2.3 mm. None of these patients demonstrated micrometastatic disease in their sentinel nodes. The most common reconstructive procedure after surgical resection was the use of rotational advancement flaps. Localization of radioactivity, as detected with external technetium-99 scanning, was the most reliable method for detection of the sentinel lymph node basins and the individual nodes. The average value for the primary injection site was 8375 counts per second, and the average value for the nodes removed was 973.5 counts per second. Of the nine patients who underwent sentinel lymph node mapping, only one, with an initial lesion depth of 5 mm, developed a local recurrence. The average follow-up period in this study was 21 months (range, 12 to 79 months). All patients in this study were evaluated at least 1 year after the initial surgical resection. Patients were monitored by the same surgical oncologist every 3 months for the first 2 years. Little can be found in the literature regarding the efficacy of sentinel node biopsies for ear melanomas. Larger studies are indicated; however, it seems that this method is practical for designing therapeutic methods for patients with melanoma of the ear.

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