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A Targeted Approach to Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsies in the Parotid Region for Head and Neck Melanomas.
Salem Samra, M.D., Rajendra Sawh-Martinez, Laura K. Tom, Britt Colebunders, Bernard Salameh, MD, Carolyn Truini, Stephan Ariyan, MD, Deepak Narayan, MD.
Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.

Introduction: Cutaneous melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, and the head and neck region is the primary site in 25% to 35% of patients. Lymph node status is the best indicator of prognosis for melanoma. In the head and neck, sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy presents particular challenges, with the parotid region posing difficulties that include locating the lymph nodes, less frequent visualization of blue dye, and the possibility of higher morbidity because of the proximity of lymph nodes to important neurovascular structures. Surgical approaches to the SLN dissection in the parotid region are variable, and may include superficial or total parotidectomies. Parotid sparing SLN biopsies for head and neck melanomas were evaluated to determine rates of local recurrence.
Methods: The charts of 301 patients from the Yale Melanoma Unit who underwent resection of their head and neck melanoma were reviewed. The location of the primary melanoma was noted and the sentinel lymph node dissections from the operative reports were documented. Demographic and outcome data were recorded, including course of melanoma management, local recurrence and post-operative course.
Results: 58 patients underwent SLN biopsy of lymph nodes in the parotid region. Parotid sparing SLN biopsies comprised 94.8% of total surgical approaches for SLN biopsies in the parotid region. Of the remaining patients who underwent SLN biopsies in the parotid region, 5.17% had a superficial parotidectomy and none had a total parotidectomy. SLNs were found in all depth layers of the parotid, and LN’s were dissected out successfully without need to remove the parotid in the majority of cases. The parotid region recurrence rate was 0% for SLN biopsies that either included or spared the parotid gland. There were no localized complications from the sentinel lymph node biopsies.
Conclusions: The parotid sparing SLN biopsy was performed without any local recurrence in the parotid region. The parotid sparing SLN biopsy can be carried out in a safe, efficient manner without affecting the rate of local recurrence or post-operative complication. This less invasive SLN biopsy procedure precludes the complications associated with parotidectomies and may reduce the morbidity for patients with melanomas of the head and neck.


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