Endoscopic axillary exploration and sentinel lymphadenectomy

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Surgical Endoscopy








Axilla; Breast cancer; Endoscopy; Sentinel nodes


Background: Minimally invasive approaches have changed the practice of surgery in several specialties. The purpose of this study was to develop a reproducible endoscopic technique for the evaluation of the axilla in breast cancer patients. Methods: A total of 23 patients with biopsy-proven breast carcinoma were enrolled. Patients were positioned in the supine position with the ipsilateral arm abducted at 90°. A 1-cm skin incision was made at the superior aspect of the axilla. Dissection was carried bluntly to the lateral border of the pectoralis major. A balloon distention device was inserted into the tract and distended under endoscopic vision to create a working space. Insufflation was initiated up to a pressure of 8 mmHg. A 30°laparoscope was introduced for visualization of axillary contents. One or two additional 5- mm cannulas were placed as needed under direct visualization. Manipulation of axillary contents was performed, and in 19 patients a sentinel node identification technique was applied. Results: In all patients, using insufflation and minimal instrument dissection, the axillary vein, long thoracic, and thoracodorsal nerves were found in their usual anatomical locations. Utilizing blunt and sharp dissection, the axilla was thoroughly inspected, and individual lymph nodes were easily identified and extracted. In 11 of 19 patients, a sentinel node or blue dye was identified using isosulfan blue. There was a procedure concordance of 84%, and there were no complications. Conclusions: We describe a novel endoscopic technique for the evaluation of the axilla in breast cancer patients. This technique allows (a) creation of a minimally invasive working space within the axilla, (b) recognition of key axillary anatomic landmarks, and (c) instrument manipulation within the axilla to identify and extract lymph nodes, and apply the sentinel node technique. This is the first report of a minimally invasive approach to axillary exploration to employ sentinel lymph node mapping.

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