Lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy is a new technique used in the surgical treatment of patients with malignant melanoma. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the results of this approach for patients with melanoma of the lower extremity. Between May of 1994 and June of 1997 at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, 85 consecutive patients with clinical stage I and II melanoma of the lower extremity underwent lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy. These nodes were identified in all 85 patients by intraoperative lymphatic mapping with both radiolymphoscintigraphy and a vital blue dye injection. Eleven patients (12.9 percent) had histologically positive sentinel lymph nodes, and 10 patients underwent inguinal complete lymph node dissections. All 10 patients had no further histologically positive lymph nodes confirmed by subsequent complete dissection. Among 74 patients with histologically negative sentinel lymph nodes, only 2 patients (2.7 percent) developed inguinal nodal metastases during a mean follow-up period of 21.8 months (range, 13.5 to 58.3 months). The sensitivity of lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy in this series was 100 percent and the specificity was 97.3 percent. Therefore, we conclude that the use of lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy can accurately stage patients with melanoma of the lower extremity and provide a rational surgical approach for these patients.
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