Intraoperative evaluation of sentinel lymph nodes for breast carcinoma: current methodologies

Adv Anat Pathol. 2002 Jul;9(4):233-43. doi: 10.1097/00125480-200207000-00003.


Sentinel lymph node biopsy is an important new addition to the surgical management of patients with breast carcinoma. Sentinel nodes have a higher chance of containing metastases than do nonsentinel nodes. Sentinel lymph node biopsy provides an opportunity to stage breast carcinoma patients more accurately and to modify subsequent treatment. One of the most exciting current roles of sentinel lymph node biopsy is the ability to stage patients intraoperatively, allowing a one-step axillary lymph node dissection if the sentinel lymph node contains metastatic carcinoma. Currently, intraoperative evaluation of sentinel lymph nodes is performed using imprint cytology with or without rapid cytokeratin staining, frozen sectioning with or without rapid cytokeratin staining, scrape preparations, or some combination of these techniques. We review the relative strengths and weaknesses of these different methodologies. A great deal of controversy exists regarding the management of patients with metastatic breast carcinoma, particularly those patients with occult and micrometastatic disease. These issues are beyond the scope of this article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Frozen Sections / methods
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Care*
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy*
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sulfur Colloid


  • Technetium Tc 99m Sulfur Colloid
  • Keratins