Background: Sentinel lymph node biopsy using a vital dye is a convenient and safe method to assess lymph node status in breast cancer. However, intensive training is necessary to obtain a satisfactory detection rate and to avoid false-negative results. This paper presents a novel method using indocyanine green fluorescence imaging to detect sentinel lymph nodes.
Methods: Fluorescence images were obtained using a charge coupled device camera with a cut filter as the detector, and light emitting diodes at 760 nm as the light source. When indocyanine green was injected around the areola, subcutaneous lymphatic channels draining from the areola to the axilla were visible by fluorescence within a few minutes. The sentinel lymph node was then dissected by fluorescence navigation.
Results: Sentinel lymph node biopsy using the present method was performed on eighteen patients. Subcutaneous lymphatics were detectable by fluorescence in all patients, and sentinel nodes were successfully identified in 17 of 18 cases (detection rate:94%). It was possible to detect the lymphatic channels and nodes receiving indocyanine green with higher sensitivity by the fluorescence signal than by the green color.
Conclusion: Sentinel node biopsy guided by indocyanine green fluorescence imaging is a promising technique for further clinical exploration.