Techniques for sentinel node biopsy in breast cancer

Minerva Surg. 2021 Dec;76(6):550-563. doi: 10.23736/S2724-5691.21.09002-X. Epub 2021 Aug 2.


Sentinel node biopsy (SNB) is the standard of care in women with breast cancer (BC) and clinically nonsuspicious axillary lymph nodes (LNs), due to its high negative predictive value (NPV) in the assessment of nodal status. SNB has significantly reduced complications related to the axillary lymph node dissection, such as lymphedema and upper limb dysfunction. The gold standard technique for SNB is the blue dye (BD) and technetium labelled nanocolloid (Tc-99m) double technique. However, nuclear medicine is not available in all Institutions and several new tracers and devices have been proposed, such as indocyanine green (ICG) and superparamagnetic iron oxides (SPIO). All these techniques show an accuracy and detection rate not inferior to that of the standard technique, with different specific pros and cons. The choice of how to perform a SNB primarily depends on the surgeon's confidence with the procedure, the availability of nuclear medicine and the economic resources of the Institutions. In this setting, new tracers, hybrid tracers and imaging techniques are being evaluated in order to improve the detection rate of sentinel lymph nodes (SNs) and minimize the number of unnecessary axillary surgeries through an accurate preoperative assessment of nodal status and to guide new minimally invasive diagnostic procedures of SNs. In particular, the contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) is an active field of research but cannot be recommended for clinical use at this time. The ICG fluorescence technique was superior in terms of DR, as well as having the lowest FNR. The DR descending order was SPIO, Tc, dual modality (Tc/BD), CEUS and BD. This paper is a narrative review of the most common SNB techniques in BC with a focus on recent innovations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indocyanine Green
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy


  • Indocyanine Green