Background: Lymph node analysis is essential for staging gastrointestinal (GI) neoplasms. Intraoperative lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymphadenectomy were originally described for melanoma but have not yet been investigated for most GI neoplasms.
Hypotheses: (1) Lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymphadenectomy is feasible in GI neoplasms, (2) the sentinel node (SN) status reflects the regional node status, and (3) focused analysis of the SN improves staging accuracy.
Design: Prospective patient series.
Patients and methods: Lymphatic mapping was performed in 65 patients with GI neoplasms by injecting 0.5 to 1 mL of isosulfan blue dye around the periphery of the neoplasm. Blue-stained SNs were analyzed by hematoxylin-eosin staining, multiple sectioning, and cytokeratin immunohistochemistry.
Results: Lymphatic mapping identified at least 1 SN in 62 patients (95%). Of the 36 cases with nodal metastasis, 32 (89%) had at least 1 positive SN and 15 (42%) had nodal metastasis only in the SN. In 11 cases, tumor deposits were identified by multiple sectioning (n = 2) or immunohistochemistry (n = 9) only. In 5 cases (8%), lymphatic mapping identified aberrant lymphatic drainage that altered the extent of the lymphadenectomy.
Conclusions: Lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymphadenectomy are feasible in GI neoplasms and identify aberrant lymphatic drainage. The SN status accurately reflects the regional node status. Focused analysis of the SN increases the detection of micrometastases and may improve selection of patients for adjuvant treatment.