Objective: To determine the optimal radioactive colloid injection technique for sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy for breast cancer.
Summary background data: The optimal radioactive colloid injection technique for breast cancer SLN biopsy has not yet been defined. Peritumoral injection of radioactive colloid has been used in most studies. Although dermal injection of radioactive colloid has been proposed, no published data exist to establish the false-negative rate associated with this technique.
Methods: The University of Louisville Breast Cancer Sentinel Lymph Node Study is a multiinstitutional study involving 229 surgeons. Patients with clinical stage T1-2, N0 breast cancer were eligible for the study. All patients underwent SLN biopsy, followed by level I/II axillary dissection. Peritumoral, subdermal, or dermal injection of radioactive colloid was performed at the discretion of the operating surgeon. Peritumoral injection of isosulfan blue dye was performed concomitantly in most patients. The SLN identification rates and false-negative rates were compared. The ratios of the transcutaneous and ex vivo radioactive SLN count to the final background count were calculated as a measure of the relative degree of radioactivity of the nodes. One-way analysis of variance and chi-square tests were used for statistical analysis.
Results: A total of 2,206 patients were enrolled. Peritumoral, subdermal, or dermal injection of radioactive colloid was performed in 1,074, 297, and 511 patients, respectively. Most of the patients (94%) who underwent radioactive colloid injection also received peritumoral blue dye injection. The SLN identification rate was improved by the use of dermal injection compared with subdermal or peritumoral injection of radioactive colloid. The false-negative rates were 9.5%, 7.8%, and 6.5% (not significant) for peritumoral, subdermal, and dermal injection techniques, respectively. The relative degree of radioactivity of the SLN was five- to sevenfold higher with the dermal injection technique compared with peritumoral injection.
Conclusions: Dermal injection of radioactive colloid significantly improves the SLN identification rate compared with peritumoral or subdermal injection. The false-negative rate is also minimized by the use of dermal injection. Dermal injection also is associated with SLNs that are five- to sevenfold more radioactive than with peritumoral injection, which simplifies SLN localization and may shorten the learning curve.