Contrast enhanced ultrasound of sentinel lymph nodes

XinWu Cui1, Andre Ignee1, Michael Bachmann Nielsen2, Dagmar Schreiber-Dietrich1, Chiara De Molo1, Clara Pirri1, Maciej Jedrzejczyk1, Dietrich F. Christoph1

Affiliation and address for correspondence
J Ultrason 2012; 13 (52): 73–81

Sentinel lymph nodes are the first lymph nodes in the region that receive lymphatic drainage from a primary tumor. The detection or exclusion of sentinel lymph node micrometastases is critical in the staging of cancer, especially breast cancer and melanoma because it directly affects patient’s prognosis and surgical management. Currently, intraoperative sentinel lymph node biopsies using blue dye and radioisotopes are the method of choice for the detection of sentinel lymph node with high identification rate. In contrast, conventional ultrasound is not capable of detecting sentinel lymph nodes in most cases. Contrast enhanced ultrasound with contrast specific imaging modes has been used for the evaluation and diagnostic work-up of peripherally located suspected lymphadenopathy. The method allows for real-time analysis of all vascular phases and the visualization of intranodal focal “avascular” areas that represent necrosis or deposits of neoplastic cells. In recent years, a number of animal and human studies showed that contrast enhanced ultrasound can be also used for the detection of sentinel lymph node, and may become a potential application in clinical routine. Several contrast agents have been used in those studies, including albumin solution, hydroxyethylated starch, SonoVue®, Sonazoid® and Definity®. This review summarizes the current knowledge about the use of ultrasound techniques in detection and evaluation of sentinel lymph node.

contrast enhanced ultrasound, sentinel lymph node, breast cancer, melanoma, preoperative staging, microbubble contrast agents