Dynamic lymphoscintigraphy and image fusion of SPECT and pelvic CT-scans allow mapping of aberrant pelvic sentinel lymph nodes in malignant melanoma

Eur J Cancer. 2003 Jan;39(2):175-83. doi: 10.1016/s0959-8049(02)00534-8.


To date, there are no reliable criteria to identify those patients with melanoma-infiltrated sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) of the groin who might benefit from an extended lymphadenectomy, including the pelvic lymph nodes. We hypothesised that there are pelvic lymph nodes that receive lymph directly from the primary tumour, thus being at an increased risk for metastasis. In order to determine the frequency of radioactively labelled pelvic lymph nodes and the kinetics of their appearance, we introduce here a combination of dynamic lymphoscintigraphy, single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and image fusion of SPECT and pelvic Computed Tomography (CT)-scans. By dynamic lymphoscintigraphy and intraoperative gamma probe detection, superficially located inguinal SLNs (median 2 nodes) could be identified in all of the 51 patients included in this analysis. The histological search for micrometastases was positive in 16 patients (median Breslow thickness of the primary melanoma 2.5 mm). In 29 patients, SPECT and the image fusion technique were additionally performed. Radioactively labelled pelvic lymph nodes were detected in 20 individuals, 6 of them presenting aberrant pelvic SLNs that, on dynamic lymphoscintigraphy, had appeared simultaneously with the superficial SLN(s). Of the 6 patients in whom radioactive pelvic lymph nodes were excised together with the superficial SLN(s), only one had positive superficial SLNs. In this patient, the aberrant pelvic SLN proved to be tumour-positive. In 9 patients, there was no radiotracer uptake in the pelvic lymph nodes at all. Image fusion of SPECT and pelvic CT-scans is an excellent tool to localise exactly the pelvic tumour-draining nodes. The significance of radioactively labelled pelvic lymph nodes for the probability of pelvic metastases should be analysed further.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelvis
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods*