The utility of ICG fluorescence for sentinel lymph node identification in head and neck melanoma

Am J Otolaryngol. 2021 Sep-Oct;42(5):103147. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2021.103147. Epub 2021 Jun 25.


Purpose: Perform an evidence-based review to determine the utility of indocyanine green fluorescence (ICG) to detect sentinel lymph nodes (SLN) in patients with head and neck melanoma compared to blue dye or radiocolloid injection (RI).

Materials and methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed to identify patients with head and neck melanoma managed with ICG fluorescence. PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases were searched. Included studies were assessed for level of evidence. Patient demographics and data on SLN identification were determined.

Results: Twenty-two studies encompassing 399 patients (75% male, 25% female, average age 57.1 years) met inclusion criteria. Publications comprised of two case reports, four retrospective case series, twelve cohort studies, and four clinical trials. Most common site of melanoma was scalp/temple/forehead (35%), cheek/midface (22%), and ear (17%) with an average Breslow thickness of 3.32 mm. SLN was identified in 80.7% (n = 201/249) of patients using ICG-RI, 85.2% (n = 75/88) using RI alone, and 63.4% (n = 52/82) using blue dye-RI.

Conclusions: ICG-99mTc-nanocolloid hybrid tracer may be a superior alternative to blue dye + adiocolloid and has theoretical advantages compared to RI alone. Additional prospective randomized controlled trials are needed to further compare these methods and obtain data on false negative rates, operating room time, and cost effectiveness to fully elucidate the utility of ICG-99mTc-nanocolloid over current methods used for SLN identification in this patient population.

Keywords: Head and neck cancer; ICG fluorescence; Indocyanine green; Melanoma; Radiotracer; Sentinel lymph node.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Colloids
  • Coloring Agents
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Indocyanine Green*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Sentinel Lymph Node / pathology*
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods*


  • Colloids
  • Coloring Agents
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Indocyanine Green