, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp 473-482

Therapeutic node dissections in malignant melanoma

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Background: Therapeutic lymphadenectomies involve the dissection and removal of clinically enlarged, histologically positive nodes at the regional nodal basin, in the absence of detectable distant disease.

Methods: The literature dealing with therapeutic lymphadenectomies in malignant melanoma was reviewed.

Results: The rate of wound complications varies with the particular nodal basin. The 5-year survival varies from 19% to 38%, with an average of 26%. Survival is affected primarily by the number of histologically positive nodes and extracapsular spread, and secondarily by the extent of disease at the various levels of the nodal basin, fixation of the nodes, and, probably, the preceding disease-free interval. Prognostic parameters of the primary lesion, e.g., thickness, ulceration, and location, also may have an effect on survival. The rate of local recurrence at the nodal basin after lymphadenectomy has varied from 0.8% to 52%. Adjuvant therapy with interferon alfa-2b has improved the 5-year disease-free survival from 26% to 37%.

Conclusions: Therapeutic node dissections in melanoma provide an appreciable 5-year survival rate, which is further augmented by adjuvant therapy. Many series report a significant rate of local recurrence at the nodal basin following therapeutic dissection. Complete lymphadenectomy reduces the rate of local failure with its attendant morbidity.