Standard versus pH-adjusted and lidocaine supplemented radiocolloid for patients undergoing sentinel-lymph-node mapping and biopsy for early breast cancer (PASSION-P trial): a double-blind, randomised controlled trial

Lancet Oncol. 2009 Sep;10(9):849-54. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(09)70194-9. Epub 2009 Aug 5.


Background: Sentinel-lymph-node (SLN) mapping and biopsy maintains staging accuracy in early breast cancer and identifies patients for selective lymphadenectomy. SLN mapping requires injection of technetium-99m-sulfur colloid-an effective but sometimes painful method, for which better pain-management strategies are needed. In this randomised, double-blind trial, we compared degree of pain between standard radiocolloid injection and pH-adjusted and lidocaine-supplemented formulations for patients undergoing SLN mapping for breast cancer.

Methods: Between Jan 13, 2006, and April 30, 2009, 140 patients with early breast cancer were randomly assigned in a 1:1:1:1 fashion to receive the standard topical 4% lidocaine cream and injection of [(99m)Tc]Tc-sulfur colloid (n=35), or to one of three other study groups: topical placebo cream and injection of Tc-sulfur colloid containing either sodium bicarbonate (n=35), 1% lidocaine (n=35), or sodium bicarbonate and 1% lidocaine (n=35). The randomisation sequence was computer generated, and all patients and investigators were masked to treatment allocation. The primary endpoint was patient-reported breast pain immediately after radioisotope injection, using the Wong-Baker FACES pain rating scale and McGill pain questionnaire, analysed in the per-protocol population. This study is registered with, number NCT00940199.

Findings: 19 of the 140 patients enrolled were excluded from analysis: nine declined study participation or sought care elsewhere, nine did not undergo SLN mapping because of disease extent or a technical problem, and one had unreliable data. There were no adverse events. Mean pain scores on the Wong-Baker scale (0-10) were: 6.0 (SD 2.6) for those who received standard of practice, 4.7 (3.0) for those who received radiocolloid plus bicarbonate, 1.6 (1.4) for those who received radiocolloid plus 1% lidocaine, and 1.6 (1.3) for those who received radiocolloid plus bicarbonate and 1% lidocaine (p<0.0001). Mean pain rating, according to the McGill questionnaire (0-78), was 17.5 (SD 11.8) for the standard-of-care group, 15.4 (14.4) for the sodium bicarbonate group, 4.6 (4.5) for the 1% lidocaine group, and 3.4 (5.1) for the sodium bicarbonate plus 1% lidocaine group (p<0.0001). SLN identification rates for each group were: 96% for the standard of care, 97% for sodium bicarbonate, 90% for 1% lidocaine, and 90% for sodium bicarbonate plus 1% lidocaine group (p=0.56).

Interpretation: For centres that use radiocolloid injections for SLN mapping in patients with early breast cancer, the addition of 1% lidocaine to the radioisotope solution can improve patient comfort, without compromising SLN identification.

Funding: US Military Cancer Institute, the Clinical Breast Care Project, and the Army Regional Anesthesia and Pain Management Initiative.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intradermal
  • Lidocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / administration & dosage*
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods*
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sulfur Colloid / administration & dosage*


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Drug Combinations
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sulfur Colloid
  • Lidocaine

Associated data