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Annals of Surgical Oncology

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The Role of Completion Lymph Node Dissection for Sentinel Lymph Node-Positive Melanoma

Tina J. Hieken MD, John M. Kane III MD, Sandra L. Wong MD
Volume 26, Issue 4 / April , 2019


Purpose and Methods

Completion lymph node dissection (CLND) for sentinel lymph node (SLN)-positive melanoma patients has been guideline-concordant standard of care since adoption of lymphatic mapping and SLN biopsy for the management of clinically node-negative melanoma patients more than 20 years ago. However, a trend for omission of CLND has been observed over the past decade, and we now have randomized, controlled clinical trial data to help guide treatment recommendations. Publication of these data prompted an American Society of Clinical Oncology—Society of Surgical Oncology 2018 clinical practice guideline update for these patients.

Results and Conclusions

Systematic review of current evidence supports a selective, individualized approach to CLND for SLN-positive melanoma. For low-risk, low-volume micrometastatic disease, SLN biopsy may be both diagnostic and therapeutic, and close clinical follow-up with imaging or CLND are reasonable options for appropriately selected patients. For higher-risk patients, omission of CLND requires careful consideration of risks versus benefits, relevant histopathology, and individualized patient discussion. This should address patient comorbidities and life expectancy, the predicted likelihood of additional positive nodes, availability of imaging surveillance, likelihood of adherence to imaging and clinical follow-up, consequences of regional recurrence, and the prognostic value of complete nodal staging and its impact on adjuvant therapy recommendations or clinical trial participation. Data on long-term outcomes, cost, and patient-reported quality of life measures are not yet available.

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