Near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence imaging using indocyanine green (ICG) has the potential to improve the sentinel lymph node (SLN) procedure by facilitating percutaneous and intraoperative identification of lymphatic channels and SLNs. Previous studies suggested that a dose of 0.62 mg (1.6 mL of 0.5 mM) ICG is optimal for SLN mapping in breast cancer. The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of NIR fluorescence for SLN mapping in breast cancer patients when used in conjunction with conventional techniques. Study subjects were 95 breast cancer patients planning to undergo SLN procedure at either the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (Boston, MA, USA) or the Leiden University Medical Center (Leiden, the Netherlands) between July 2010 and January 2013. Subjects underwent the standard-of-care SLN procedure at each institution using (99)Technetium-colloid in all subjects and patent blue in 27 (28 %) of the subjects. NIR fluorescence-guided SLN detection was performed using the Mini-FLARE imaging system. SLN identification was successful in 94 of 95 subjects (99 %) using NIR fluorescence imaging or a combination of both NIR fluorescence imaging and radioactive guidance. In 2 of 95 subjects, radioactive guidance was necessary for initial in vivo identification of SLNs. In 1 of 95 subjects, NIR fluorescence was necessary for initial in vivo identification of SLNs. A total of 177 SLNs (mean 1.9, range 1-5) were resected: 100 % NIR fluorescent, 88 % radioactive, and 78 % (of 40 nodes) blue. In 2 of 95 subjects (2.1 %), SLNs-containing macrometastases were found only by NIR fluorescence, and in one patient this led to upstaging to N1. This study demonstrates the safe and accurate application of NIR fluorescence imaging for the identification of SLNs in breast cancer patients, but calls into question what technique should be used as the gold standard in future studies.