Superiority of radioisotope over blue dye for sentinel lymph node detection in breast cancer

Eur Surg Res. 2010;44(2):111-6. doi: 10.1159/000277937. Epub 2010 Jan 29.


Background: Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is commonly performed using radioisotopes and/or blue dye. However, it is still undefined which reagent is more suitable for identifying sentinel lymph nodes (SLN).

Patients and methods: A consecutive series of 640 breast cancer patients who had undergone SLNB at the Keio University Hospital from 2001 to 2006 was analyzed. The SLN was identified by a combination of technetium-99m tin colloid and isosulfan blue dye. The correlation between clinicopathological factors and the distribution of radioisotopes and blue dye was analyzed. The single metastatic lymph node revealed by axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) is the 'true SLN', and the distribution of radioisotopes and blue dye to the 'true SLN' was also analyzed.

Results: Blue-dye- and radioisotope-positive SLN were identified in 79.6 and 94.7% of the patients, respectively. Taken together, SLN were identified in 625 patients (97.7%) by radioisotope and/or blue dye. No significant correlation was observed between clinicopathological features and the distribution of the reagents. ALND found 73 patients with single lymph node metastasis, and 73 'true SLN' were identified by blue dye in 65.7% (48/73), and by radioisotope in 95.9% (70/73) of the cases.

Conclusion: These data suggest that radioisotopes are superior to blue dye in detecting SLN in breast cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Receptors, Progesterone / analysis
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy*


  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone