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Sentinel lymph node biopsy is widely accepted as standard care in melanoma despite lack of pertinent randomized trials results. A possible pitfall of this procedure is the inaccurate identification of the sentinel lymph node leading to biopsy and analysis of a nonsentinel node. Such a technical failure may yield a different prognosis. The purpose of this study is to analyze the incidence of false negativity and its impact on clinical outcome and to try to understand its causes. The Melanoma Data Base at National Cancer Institute of Naples was analyzed comparing results between false-negative and tumor-positive sentinel node patients focusing on overall survival and prognostic factors influencing the clinical outcome. One hundred fifty-one cases were diagnosed to be tumor-positive after sentinel lymph node biopsy and were subjected to complete lymph node dissection. Thirty-four (18.4%)patients with tumor-negative sentinel node subsequently developed lymph node metastases in the basin site of the sentinel procedure. With a median follow-up of 42.8 months the 5-year overall survival was 48.4% and 66.3% for false-negative and tumor-positive group respectively with significant statistical differences (P < .03). The sensitivity of sentinel lymph node biopsy was 81.6%, and a regional nodal basin recurrence after negative-sentinel node biopsy means a worse prognosis, compared with patients submitted to complete lymph node dissection after a positive sentinel biopsy. The evidence of higher number of tumor-positive nodes after delayed lymphadenectomy in false-negative group compared with tumor-positive sentinel node cases, confirmed the importance of an early staging of lymph nodal involvement. Further data will better clarify the role of prognostic factors to identify cases with a more aggressive biological behavior of the disease.


C Caracò, U Marone, E Celentano, G Botti, N Mozzillo. Impact of false-negative sentinel lymph node biopsy on survival in patients with cutaneous melanoma. Annals of surgical oncology. 2007 Sep;14(9):2662-7

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PMID: 17597345

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