The role of sentinel node biopsy in head and neck cancer is currently being explored. Patients with positive sentinel nodes were investigated to establish if additional metastases were present in the neck, their distribution, and their impact on outcome.
In all, 109 patients (n = 109) from 15 European centers, with cT1/2,N0 tumors, and a positive sentinel lymph node were identified. Kaplan-Meier and univariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis were used to identify variables that predicted for additional positive nodes and their position within the neck.
A total of 122 neck dissections were performed in 109 patients. Additional positive nodes were found in 34.4% of cases (42/122: 18 same, 21 adjacent, and 3 nonadjacent neck level). Additional nodes, especially if outside the sentinel node basin, had an impact on outcome.
The results are preliminary but suggest that both the number and the position of positive sentinel nodes may identify different prognostic groups that may allow further tailoring of management plans.