To determine whether high-frequency ultrasound can predict the presence of metastatic axillary lymph nodes, with a high specificity and positive predictive value, in patients with invasive breast cancer. The clinical aim is to identify patients with axillary disease requiring surgery who would not normally, on clinical grounds, have an axillary dissection, so potentially improving outcome and survival rates.
Materials and methods
The ipsilateral and contralateral axillae of 42 consecutive patients with invasive breast cancer were scanned prior to treatment using a B-mode frequency of 13 MHz and a Power Doppler frequency of 7 MHz. The presence or absence of an echogenic centre for each lymph node detected was recorded, and measurements were also taken to determine the L/S ratio and the widest and narrowest part of the cortex. Power Doppler was also used to determine vascularity. The contralateral axilla was used as a control for each patient.
In this study of patients with invasive breast cancer, ipsilateral lymph nodes with a cortical bulge ≥3 mm and/or at least two lymph nodes with absent echogenic centres indicated the presence of metastatic axillary lymph nodes (10 patients). The sensitivity and specificity were 52.6% and 100%, respectively, positive and negative predictive values were 100% and 71.9%, respectively, the P value was 0.001 and the Kappa score was 0.55.
This would indicate that high-frequency ultrasound can be used to accurately predict metastatic lymph nodes in a proportion of patients with invasive breast cancer, which may alter patient management.