Sentinel node biopsy for head and neck melanoma: A systematic review

Nicole De Rosa, Gary H. Lyman, Damian Silbermins, Matias E. Valsecchi, Scott K. Pruitt, Douglas M. Tyler, Walter T. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

67 Scopus citations


Objective. This systematic review was conducted to examine the test performance of sentinel node biopsy in head and neck melanoma, including the identification rate and false-negative rate. Data Sources. PubMed, EMBASE, ASCO, and SSO database searches were conducted to identify studies fulfilling the following inclusion criteria: sentinel node biopsy was performed, lesions were located on the head and neck, and recurrence data for both metastatic and nonmetastatic patients were reported. Review Methods. Dual-blind data extraction was conducted. Primary outcomes included identification rate and test performance based on completion neck dissection or nodal recurrence. Results. A total of 3442 patients from 32 studies published between 1990 and 2009 were reviewed. Seventy-eight percent of studies were retrospective and 22% were prospective. Trials varied from 9 to 755 patients (median 55). Mean Breslow depth was 2.53 mm. Median sentinel node biopsy identification rate was 95.2%. More than 1 basin was reported in 33.1% of patients. A median of 2.56 sentinel nodes per patient were excised. Sentinel node biopsy was positive in 15% of patients. Subsequent completion neck dissection was performed in almost all of these patients and revealed additional positive nodes in 13.67%. Median follow-up was 31 months. Across all studies, predictive value positive for nodal recurrence was 13.1% and posttest probability negative was 5%. Median false-negative rate for nodal recurrence was 20.4%. Conclusion. Sentinel node biopsy of head and neck melanoma is associated with an increased false-negative rate compared with studies of non-head and neck lesions. Positive sentinel node status is highly predictive of recurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-382
Number of pages8
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Falsenegative rate
  • Head and neck melanoma
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology

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  • Cite this

    De Rosa, N., Lyman, G. H., Silbermins, D., Valsecchi, M. E., Pruitt, S. K., Tyler, D. M., & Lee, W. T. (2011). Sentinel node biopsy for head and neck melanoma: A systematic review. Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, 145(3), 375-382.