Lower tumour burden and better overall survival in melanoma patients with regional lymph node metastases and negative preoperative ultrasound
Background. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the ability of ultrasound (US) and fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) in reducing the number of melanoma patients requiring a sentinel node biopsy (SNB); to compare the amount of metastatic disease in regional lymph nodes in SNB candidates with clinically uninvolved lymph nodes and of those with US uninvolved lymph nodes; and to compare the overall survival (OS) of both groups.
Methods. Between 2000 and 2007, a SNB was successfully performed in 707 patients with melanoma. The preoperative US of the regional lymph node basins was performed in 405 SNB candidates. In 14 of these patients, the US-guided FNAB was positive and they proceeded directly to lymph node dissection. In 391 patients, the preoperative US was either negative (343 patients) or suspicious (48 patients) (US group). In the remaining 316 patients the preoperative US was not performed (non-US group).
Results. The proportion of macrometastatic sentinel lymph nodes (SN), number of metastatic lymph nodes per patient and proportion of nonsentinel lymph node metastases were found to be lower in the US group compared to the non-US group. The smaller tumour burden of the US group was reflected in a significantly better OS of patients with SN metastases.
Conclusions. The preoperative US of regional lymph nodes spares some patients with melanoma from undergoing a SNB. Patients with regional metastases and a negative preoperative US have a significantly lower tumour burden in comparison to those with clinically negative lymph nodes, which is also reflected in a better OS.