Primary therapy of malignant melanomas: sentinel lymphadenectomy

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Each melanoma is drained by one or, occasionally, several individual lymph nodes within the nearest lymph node region (sentinel lymph node).


By histopathologic examination of the removed sentinel lymph node (SLN), it is possible to select patients clinically according to stage I or II (UICC classification), but who, microscopically, represent stage III.


Sentinel lymphadenectomies (SLNEs) were performed initially by the vital blue dye technique, and later by γ-probe guidance only. The removed SLNs were examined by hematoxylin and eosin as well as immunohistochemical stains (S100, and HMB 45).


We have performed 115 γ-probe-guided SLNEs in 100 patients. The SLN could be found in all cases. In pT3 + 4 melanomas, 27.5% of the SLNs were positive; in only one patient with a pT2 tumor were micrometastases found.


γ-Probe-guided SLNE is a reliable procedure with minimal complications that should be performed in all pT3 + 4 (intraoperative frozen section histology) melanomas without clinically evident metastases.

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