Background: The aims of this retrospective analysis were to evaluate the effect of combined superficial and deep groin dissection on disease-free and melanoma-specific survival, and to identify the most important factors for predicting the involvement of deep nodes according to clinically or microscopically detected nodal metastases.
Methods: Between January 1996 and December 2005, 133 consecutive patients with groin lymph node metastases underwent superficial and deep dissection at the National Cancer Institute, Naples. Lymph node involvement was clinically evident in 84 patients and detected by sentinel node biopsy in 49 cases.
Results: The 5-year disease-free survival was significantly better for patients with superficial lymph node metastases than for patients with involvement of both superficial and deep lymph nodes (34.9% vs. 19.0%; P = 0.001). The 5-year melanoma-specific survival was also significantly better for patients with superficial node metastases only (55.6% vs. 33.3%; P = 0.001).
Conclusions: Metastasis in the deep nodes is the strongest predictor of both disease-free and melanoma-specific survival. Deep groin dissection should be considered for all patients with groin clinical nodal involvement, but might be spared in patients with a positive sentinel node. Prospective studies will clarify the issue further.