Wide local excision prior to sentinel lymph node biopsy for primary melanoma of the head and neck

Int J Dermatol. 2019 Oct;58(10):1184-1190. doi: 10.1111/ijd.14435. Epub 2019 Apr 10.


Background: Previous wide local excision prior to sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) may have the potential to disrupt lymphatic channels, thus incorrectly identifying the sentinel node. The purpose of this study was to investigate: (1) regional recurrence rates of prior wide local excision compared to other biopsy techniques and (2) survival outcomes in patients with melanoma of the head and neck.

Methods: Between the years 2000 and 2016, 391 cases were reviewed with a median follow-up time of 30 months in a large tertiary care center. Biopsy practices included shave, punch, wide local excision, and narrow margin excisional/Mohs, and associations with time to local or regional relapse and death from melanoma were evaluated. Main outcomes included identification of sentinel lymph nodes, overall survival, and melanoma-specific survival.

Results: Of the 391 patients, biopsy patterns were as follows: 77 (19%) unknown biopsy, 30 (8%) prior wide local excision (WLE), 105 (27%) narrow margin excisional biopsy, 69 (18%) punch biopsy, and 110 (28%) shave biopsy. SLNB was successfully identified in all 30 patients whom had a prior WLE. There were 50 regional recurrences in the neck and 27 local recurrences with the median (IQR) at 1.2 years and 1.0 years, respectively. Multivariable associations of type of prior biopsy, depth of invasion, and nodal status with time to regional recurrence, local recurrence, overall survival, and melanoma-specific survival were not significantly different.

Conclusions: Sentinel lymph node biopsy for melanoma of the head and neck can be successfully performed in patients after previous wide local excision.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / mortality
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymph Nodes / surgery
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology
  • Male
  • Margins of Excision
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / surgery*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mohs Surgery / adverse effects
  • Mohs Surgery / methods*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / etiology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor