The existing standard for axillary lymph node staging in breast cancer patients with a clinically and radiologically normal axilla is sentinel lymph node biopsy with a radioisotope and blue dye (dual technique). The dependence on radioisotopes means that uptake of the procedure is limited to only about 60% of eligible patients in developed countries and is negligible elsewhere. We did a systematic review to assess three techniques for sentinel lymph node biopsy that are not radioisotope dependent or that refine the existing method: indocyanine green fluorescence, contrast-enhanced ultrasound using microbubbles, and superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles. Our systematic review suggested that these new methods for sentinel lymph node biopsy have clinical potential but give high levels of false-negative results. We could not identify any technique that challenged the existing standard procedure. Further assessment of these techniques against the standard dual technique in randomised trials is needed.
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