, Volume 18, Issue 10, pp 2732-2738
Date: 19 May 2011

Long-Term Experience in Sentinel Node Biopsy for Early Oral and Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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Long-term results of sentinel node biopsy (SNB) in early (T1/T2) oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) in a single-institution experience.


Prospective consecutive cohort analysis of 79 patients (67% male, median age 60 years, age range 34–87 years) included between 2000 and 2006. Lymphatic mapping consisted of preoperative lymphoscintigraphy, single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT/CT), and intraoperative use of a handheld gamma probe. Endpoints of the study were neck control rate, overall (OS), disease-specific (DSS), and disease-free survival (DFS).


Twenty-nine of 79 patients (37%) had positive sentinel nodes (SN). Six of 29 (21%) patients showed isolated tumor cells, 14/29 (48%) micrometastases, and 9/29 (31%) macrometastases. OS, DFS, and DSS at 5 years for the entire cohort were 80, 85, and 87%, for SN-negative patients were 88, 96, and 96%, and for SN-positive patients were 74, 73, and 77%, respectively. Only the difference in DSS achieved statistical significance. The neck control rate after 5 years was 96% in SN-negative and 74% in SN-positive patients. This difference was statistically significant.


SNB is a safe and accurate staging modality to select patients with clinically stage I/II OSCC with occult lymph node disease for elective neck dissection (END). The promising reported short-term results have been sustained by long-term follow-up. Patients with negative SN and no END achieve an excellent neck control rate which compares favorably with reports on primary END. The neck control rate in SN-negative patients is superior to that in SN-positive patients, which is reflected in superior DSS.