Implementing a Cervical Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Program: Quality Improvement in Gynaecologic Oncology

J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2017 Aug;39(8):659-667. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2017.02.017.


Objective: Sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy is becoming a reasonable alternative to pelvic lymphadenectomy in early-stage cervical cancer. It is therefore imperative that centres without prior experience are able to successfully implement the procedure. The objectives of the current study were to (1) describe the process of implementing an SLN biopsy program with a novel peer mentorship component and (2) assess post-program quality improvement metrics, including SLN detection rate (DR) and diagnostic parameters.

Methods: An institutional SLN biopsy protocol was developed collaboratively by gynaecologic oncology, nuclear medicine, and pathology departments at University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario. All decisions were based on the best evidence available. Newly diagnosed, early-stage cervical cancer patients undergoing primary surgery were then recruited prospectively for SLN biopsy with combined technique, followed by pelvic lymphadenectomy to evaluate key quality indicators, including SLN DR, sensitivity, and negative predictive value. Surgeons with previous SLN biopsy experience mentored surgeons unfamiliar with the technique. Interim analyses and multidisciplinary rounds were regularly carried out to identify failures of technique or protocol.

Results: Thirty-nine patients (median age 42) were enrolled in the study between August 2010 and February 2014. The median number of SLNs and total pelvic lymph nodes removed per patient were 3 and 19, respectively. SLN DRs were 92% per patient (36/39), 88.5% per hemipelvis (69/78), and 85% bilaterally (33/39). SLN biopsy correctly identified seven of eight hemipelvises with nodal metastases, yielding a sensitivity of 88% (95% CI 0.47 to 1.00) and a false negative rate of 12% (95% CI 0 to 0.53). Surgeons undergoing peer mentorship (n = 3) performed as effectively (DR 100%) as surgeons (n = 2) with prior experience (DR 85%).

Conclusions: This study provides a model upon which other centres can adopt and validate cervical SLN biopsy. High SLN DRs and accurate identification of lymph node metastases can be achieved by focusing on multidisciplinary collaboration, knowledge translation with creation of evidence-based protocols, peer mentorship, and ongoing quality control.

Keywords: Cervical cancer; peer mentorship; quality improvement; sentinel lymph node biopsy.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery
  • Adult
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Female
  • Gynecology
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pelvis
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sentinel Lymph Node / pathology*
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods*
  • Surgical Oncology
  • Trachelectomy
  • Tumor Burden
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / surgery