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Outcomes in Pediatric Atypical Spitz Tumors Treated Without Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy


Address correspondence to Brian I. Labow, M.D., Children’s Hospital Boston, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, or e-mail:


Abstract:  The diagnosis of atypical Spitz tumor (AST) in a pediatric patient conveys an uncertain potential for malignancy. Although pediatric melanoma is rare, AST may be treated aggressively with sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) and subsequent completion lymphadenectomy. These procedures have unclear therapeutic benefit and potential morbidity. We aimed to collect outcomes on children with AST treated with excision alone to assist in the management of these lesions. We queried our institution’s pathology database for AST specimens submitted between 1994 and 2009. A dermatopathologist reviewed pathology slides to confirm AST diagnosis. Clinical information was obtained from medical records, and outcomes surveys were administered to children with AST. Twenty-nine patients met AST diagnostic criteria and were included in this study. Mean age at first excision was 9.0 ± 4.2 (range 2.3–17.5), and 19 patients underwent more than one excision procedure to achieve clear margins. No patient had SLNB. Fourteen patients (48%) with mean follow-up time of 8.4 years (range 3.5–15.8) completed clinical outcomes surveys. Outcomes with mean follow-up time of 2.8 years (range 0.02–8.1 years) were obtained for 10 additional patients from medical records. There were no reports of recurrence, additional lesions, or metastases in these 24 patients. We report one of the largest series of children with AST treated using excision alone and who remain disease free after a significant follow-up period. Our data suggest that SLNB is not warranted in the routine management of pediatric AST. We recommend complete excision with clear margins and careful clinical follow-up.