• Cutaneous melanoma;
  • sentinel node


Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is considered one of the most important melanoma advancements to date. Since its inception in 1992, a plethora of data and associated controversies has emerged leading to the question: Is SLNB considered the standard of care for head and neck (HN) cutaneous melanoma?

Study Design

English literature (1990–2014) review.


The PubMed database search was conducted using key terms “melanoma” and “sentinel node.” This review included both dedicated HN SLNB studies and larger prospective SLNB studies, in which HN patients were included among the cohort. Bibliography cross-referencing was conducted to ensure a comprehensive search.


SLNB is safe and accurate in the HN region. Review of large prospective SLNB trials identified the pathologic status of the SLN as the most important prognostic factor for recurrence and survival. Early lymphadenectomy following a positive SLNB imparts a survival benefit.


Our review of the current literature suggests that SLNB is the standard of care for selected cases of HN cutaneous melanoma. It is now incorporated into the American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network practice guidelines, and numerous national and international consensus statements. Laryngoscope, 125:153–160, 2015