Purpose: To describe current indications, methods, and outcomes of sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy for eyelid and conjunctival tumors.
Methods: Review of experience to date and relevant articles published in PubMed in English.
Results: The use of SLN biopsy for conjunctival and eyelid tumors has evolved greatly in the past decade, and positive SLNs have been reported for conjunctival and eyelid melanoma, eyelid Merkel cell carcinoma, eyelid sebaceous carcinoma, and eyelid squamous cell carcinoma. Current indications for SLN biopsy of eyelid and conjunctival malignancies are the presence of conjunctival melanomas ≥2 mm in histologic thickness and/or histologic ulceration; cutaneous eyelid melanomas ≥1 mm thick, those with >1 mitotic figures per high-power field, and/or those with histologic ulceration; sebaceous carcinomas ≥10 mm in width; and Merkel cell carcinomas of any size. The frequency of false-negative biopsy results seems to be decreasing as more experience is gained with the technical nuances of the procedure and with the complex lymphatic drainage of the head and neck region. Given the emerging data published on feasibility and reported cases of microscopically positive SLNs identified in patients with otherwise normal examination of the regional lymph nodes and normal imaging studies, it seems appropriate to continue to further evaluate SLN biopsy for selected ocular tumors in future prospective studies.
Conclusions: SLN biopsy is feasible for eyelid and conjunctival tumors, and continued use of the procedure is recommended. Future multi-institutional trials are needed to expand on currently available data, fine-tune patient selection criteria, and elucidate the relationships between SLN status and patient survival and tumor recurrence.