The ratio and size of positive sentinel lymph nodes predicts the involvement of non-sentinel lymph nodes following completion axillary lymph node dissection

M. N. Chauhan, Talal Majeed, Maria Ghaus, Rajiv Dev, Sana Ahmed, Shiv Sapra, Craig Sayers, Zbigniew Kryjack, Deedar Ali


Background: The role of completion axillary lymph node dissection (CALND) following positive sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is being actively debated. The involvement of our unit in the POSNOC trial (which has a no-treatment arm), has prompted a review of our unit’s CALND results, in order to examine predictors of involvement of non-sentinel lymph nodes (n-SLN).
Methods: We retrospectively analyzed our experience of SLNB between July 2008 to 2013. A total of 1,152 breast cancer patients underwent SLNB based on lymphoscintigraphy, intraoperative gamma probe detection, and blue dye mapping using 99mTc-nanocolloid and Patent Blue V injected peri-areola.
Results: Out of 1,152 SLNB performed, 224 were positive for metastatic disease; 203 patients were anesthetically capable of progressing to CALND. On univariate analysis, involved n-SLN on CALND could not be predicted by age, size of tumor, procedure performed, lymph vascular invasion, number of positive SLN, receptor status; ER, PR, HER2 or triple negative. There was a trend toward higher incidence of positive n-SLN with increasing grade, and extracapsular spread, but these did not reach statistical significance. Positive n-SLN on CALND was however predicted by macrometastases in SLN and ratio of positive nodes on SLNB.
Conclusions: In our series of more than 200 SLNB, a ratio of >0.5 positive SLN yield and presence of macrometastases in positive SLN, were associated with positive n-SLN on CALND.