Date: 22 Aug 2004

Endoscopic sentinel lymphadenectomy as a new diagnostic approach in the N0 neck

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Sentinel lymphadenectomy was developed to reduce the extent of surgical interventions in cancer patients. The sentinel node (SN) concept was first established for melanoma and breast cancer; within some years, it also became increasingly popular for head and neck cancer. As soon as the required sensitivity of the method proves to be feasible in the daily clinical routine, the discussion about the best surgical approach to single or multiple SN(s) will arise. Different objectives may here compete with each other. The incision should render the best exposure of the operation site and should be expandable in case further lymph node regions have to be dissected. Finally, a good functional as well as a good cosmetic result is desirable. Endoscopic lymph node excisions were performed in patients suffering from squamous cell carcinoma of the upper aerodigestive tract located in different sites (1× uvula, 2× epiglottis, 1× glottis). In preoperatively performed ultrasonic imaging (B-mode-ultrasonography), N0 necks were assessed. In contrast to previously reported endoscopic techniques in humans, the presented method requires no insufflation of carbon dioxide or external retraction of the skin. Following laser surgical resection of the primary tumor, the SN and further lymph node(s) with accumulation of tracer substance were identified and resected endoscopically via an incision that was afterwards extended to a normal neck dissection incision. Reports of histopathologic examination of the sentinel node(s) were compared to the respective neck dissection specimens. The presented method may help to reduce the degree of invasiveness frequently attributed to sentinel lymphadenectomy once the method has been established for head and neck cancer.