Aims: To assess the feasibility and acceptability of large-gauge percutaneous removal of the axillary sentinel lymph node (SLN) using dual gamma probe and ultrasound guidance.
Materials and Methods: Technetium nanocolloid was administered the day before surgery. On the day of surgery, potential SLNs were identified with gamma probe and ultrasound scanning. A 7 G vacuum-assisted biopsy (VAB) device was inserted percutaneously deep to the target node and the node(s) removed. The gamma probe was used to confirm removal of radiolabelled tissue. At surgery, any residual radiolabelled or blue nodes were removed. Morbidity was assessed via (1) a pain questionnaire immediately after the percutaneous procedure, (2) relevant items from the FACT B+4 questionnaire 7–10 days after surgery, and (3) case note review 1 month after surgery.
Results: Twenty-two patients consented and 20 patients underwent the procedure. Radiolabelled nodal tissue was obtained in 18/20 (90%). The mean procedure time was 11 minutes. Four of 18 patients had metastatic disease identified in the VAB excision tissue with 100% sensitivity for axillary metastasis. At axillary surgery, additional intact SLN or fragments were found in 14 patients. No additional metastatic disease was found at surgery. One patient suffered a pneumothorax during instillation of local anaesthetic. The median pain score was 10/100 by visual analogue scale. Immediate post-procedure haematoma was common (14 of 20) and prolonged manual compression frequent.
Conclusion: VAB removal of sentinel nodes using dual scanning is feasible. Although preliminary sensitivity and specificity levels are encouraging, complications may discourage widespread implementation.