Purpose: The aim of this study was to compare the lymphatic drainage of colon cancer with the anatomic distribution of histologic and submicroscopic lymph node metastases.
Methods: Patients attending for colectomy were eligible to enter the study. At the commencement of surgery, 40 MBq of 99mTc colloidal antimony sulfide in 2 ml of Patent Blue dye was injected subserosally around the tumor. Resection was completed in a standard fashion. After resection, specimens were imaged with a gamma camera to determine the site of sentinel lymph nodes, and then dissected, recording the position of the lymph nodes on an anatomic diagram. Recovered lymph nodes were bisected, one-half for routine histology and one-half for assessment by keratin 20 (K20) reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. The kappa measure of agreement was used to assess concordance between sentinel nodes and histologic and submicroscopic metastases.
Results: Four hundred fifty-six lymph nodes were dissected from 26 tumors and evaluated using lymphoscintigraphy and lymph node mapping. Sentinel nodes were evident in 23 tumors (88 percent). The sensitivity of sentinel nodes involvement as a predictor of metastatic disease was 55 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 23-83), with a false negative (nondiagnostic) rate of 45 percent. Sentinel nodes involved the apical group in four tumors, and represented anatomic "skip" lesions in four tumors.
Conclusions: Direct lymphatic drainage to the apical group does occur in colon cancer; however, sentinel node mapping of colon cancer by this technique is of little clinical value because of the poor concordance between lymph node metastases and sentinel nodes.