Can methylene blue only be used in sentinel lymph node biopsy for breast cancer?

Breast J. 2006 Sep-Oct;12(5):428-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1075-122X.2006.00299.x.


Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) has become an accepted standard of care to stage the axilla for clinically node-negative early stage breast cancer. In experienced hands, studies have shown an acceptable rate of identification of the sentinel lymph node (SLN) with blue dye only. Lymphazurin is occasionally associated with severe allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis and death. The use of methylene blue alone as a method of identifying the SLN in breast cancer has been reported once previously in the literature. Methylene blue may be an acceptable alternative with fewer deleterious side effects. Medical records of patients, who underwent sentinel node mapping between September 2003 and March 2005 by two surgeons at an academic medical center were reviewed. SLN mapping was performed by periareolar injection of 5 cc of 1% methylene blue. All patients with positive SLNs underwent completion axillary node dissection. During the study period, 141 consecutive patients with clinically node-negative axillas and without evidence of inflammatory breast cancer underwent SLNB with injection of methylene blue only. A SLN was identified in 136 of 141 patients (96.5%). Thirty-three of 136 SLNs (24%) harbored metastatic disease. No cases of anaphylaxis were noted. In experienced hands, methylene blue alone is a highly sensitive method of detecting SLNs. Avoiding the greater frequency of allergic reactions seen with lymphazurin is an important advantage of methylene blue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Breast Neoplasms, Male / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Male
  • Methylene Blue*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods*


  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Methylene Blue