Is Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy a Viable Alternative to Complete Axillary Dissection Following Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy in Women With Node-Positive Breast Cancer at Diagnosis? An Updated Meta-Analysis Involving 3,398 Patients

Am J Surg. 2016 Nov;212(5):969-981. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2016.07.018. Epub 2016 Aug 16.


Background: The use of sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) following neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) in patients presenting with clinically positive lymph nodes remains controversial.

Methods: A computer-aided search of the literature regarding SLNB in clinically node-positive breast cancer treated with NAC was carried out to identify the false negative rate (FNR), sentinel lymph node identification rate (IR), and axillary pathological complete response (pCR).

Results: Nineteen articles were used in the analysis yielding 3,398 patients. The pooled estimate of the FNR was 13% and that of the IR was 91%. The adjusted pCR rate was 47%. A trend toward significance was observed with only clinical stage N1 (cN1) disease whereby clinical stage N1 was associated with an increased pCR rate when compared to N2 or N3 disease (P = .06).

Conclusions: SLNB after NAC in biopsy-proven node-positive patients results in reasonably acceptable FNR and IR, making it a valid alternative management strategy to axillary dissection. More refined patient selection and optimal techniques can improve the FNR and IR in this patient population.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Neoadjuvant chemotherapy; Node positive; Sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Axilla
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • False Negative Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision / methods
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymph Nodes / surgery
  • Mastectomy / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sentinel Lymph Node / pathology
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods*
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / statistics & numerical data
  • Survival Analysis