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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Surgery 1/2015

Partial axillary lymph node dissection inferior to the intercostobrachial nerves complements sentinel node biopsy in patients with clinically node-negative breast cancer

BMC Surgery > Ausgabe 1/2015
Jianyi Li, Shi Jia, Wenhai Zhang, Fang Qiu, Yang Zhang, Xi Gu, Jinqi Xue
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

LJ and ZW performed the operation, conducted data analysis and drafted the manuscript. JS, QF, ZY, GX and XJ participated in the follow-up. LJ and ZW participated in the study design and performed the statistical analysis. JS contributed to the ideas of the study, participated in the design and coordination. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



The practice of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in China varies to that in western developed countries. With the unavailability of radioactive tracer technique for sentinel lymph nodes biopsy (SLNB), using blue dye alone has been the only option in China. Also, the diagnosis of breast malignant tumor in most Chinese centres heavily relies on intraoperative instant frozen histology which is normally followed by sentinel lymph nodes mapping, SLNB and the potential breast and axillary operations in one consecutive session. This practice appears to cause a high false negative rate (FNR) for SLNB. The present study aimed to investigate the impact of the current practice in China on the accuracy of SLNB, and whether partial axillary lymph node dissection (PALND), dissection of lymph nodes inferior to the intercostobrachial nerve (ICBN), was a good complementary procedure following SLNB using blue dye.


289 patients with clinically node-negative breast cancer were identified and recruited. Tumorectomy, intraoperative instant frozen histological diagnosis, SLNB using methylene blue dye, and PALND or complete axillary node dissection (ALND) were performed in one consecutive operative session. The choice of SLNB only, SLNB followed by PALND or by ALND was based on the pre-determined protocol and preoperative choice by the patient. Clinical parameters were analyzed and survival analysis was performed.


37 % patients with clinically negative nodes were found nodes positive. 59 patients with positive SLN underwent ALND, including 47 patients with up to two positive nodes which were all located inferior to the ICBN. 9 patients had failed SLNB and underwent PALND. Among them, 3 (33.3 %) patients were found to have one metastatic node. 149 patients showed negative SLNB but chose PALND. Among them, 30 (20.1 %), 14 (9.4) and 1 (0.7 %) patients were found to have one, two and three metastatic node(s), respectively. PALND detected 48 (30.4 %) patients who had either failed SLNB or negative SLNB to have additional positive nodes. All the patients with up to two positive nodes had their nodes located inferior to the ICBN. The FNR of SLNB was 43 %. The accuracy rate was 58 %. The follow-up ranged 12–33 months. The incidence of lymphedema for SLNB, PALND, and ALND was 0 %, 0 %, and 25.4 %, respectively (P < 0.005). The disease-free survivals for SLNB, PALND, and ALND groups were 95.8 %, 96.8 %, and 94.9 %, respectively (p > 0.05).


Under the circumstances of current practice in China, PALND is a good complementary procedure following SLNB in clinically node-negative breast cancer.
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