Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy in Esophageal Cancer: Should It Be Standard of Care?

  • Sarah K. Thompson
  • Dylan Bartholomeusz
  • Glyn G. Jamieson
Original Article



Sentinel node mapping is established in some superficial cancers but remains controversial in harder-to-access solid tumors. There are an increasing number of recent studies suggesting that isolated tumor cells have prognostic significance in predicting poor survival, in breast cancer, esophageal cancer, and others. It is for this reason that we have persevered with the sentinel lymph node concept in our esophagectomy cancer patients, and we report our results since 2008.


Thirty-one of 32 consecutive patients underwent resection for invasive esophageal cancer along with sentinel lymph node retrieval (resection rate, 97%). Peritumoral injection of 99mTc antimony colloid was performed by upper endoscopy prior to the operation. A two-surgeon synchronous approach via a right thoracotomy and laparotomy was performed with a conservative lymphadenectomy. Sentinel lymph nodes were identified with a gamma probe both in and ex vivo, and sent off separately for three serial sections and immunohistochemistry with AE1/AE3.


The median patient age was 63.4 years (range, 45–75 years). Most patients (81%) had an adenocarcinoma, and 61% had received neoadjuvant therapy. At least one sentinel lymph node (median, 3) was identified in 29 of 31 patients (success rate, 94%). Sentinel nodes were present in more than one nodal station in 16 patients (55%). One false negative case led to a sensitivity of 90%. In 28 of 29 patients, the sentinel lymph node accurately predicted findings in non-sentinel nodes (accuracy, 96%).


Sentinel lymph node biopsy is both feasible and accurate in esophageal resections with conservative lymphadenectomy. It allows targeted serial sectioning and immunohistochemical studies of those nodes and should become standard of care in patients undergoing esophagectomy for esophageal cancer.


Sentinel lymph node Esophageal cancer Esophagectomy Lymphoscintigraphy Immunohistochemistry Lymph node 



This work was funded by a 2008 Research Grant from the Society of American Gastroenterologists and Surgeons (SAGES). We would like to thank Andrew Ruszkiewicz (specialist gastrointestinal pathologist) for performing a detailed analysis of the sentinel lymph nodes in this study, and Peter Devitt, Philip Game, and Andrew Lord (upper gastrointestinal surgeons) for their cooperation with this study.


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Copyright information

© The Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah K. Thompson
    • 1
    • 4
  • Dylan Bartholomeusz
    • 2
    • 3
  • Glyn G. Jamieson
    • 1
  1. 1.Discipline of SurgeryUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Nuclear MedicinePET and Bone Densitometry, Royal Adelaide HospitalAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Gastroenterology and HepatologyRoyal Adelaide HospitalAdelaideAustralia
  4. 4.Department of SurgeryRoyal Adelaide HospitalAdelaideAustralia

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