Comparison of intradermal and subcutaneous injections in lymphatic mapping

Terry W. Kersey, Jason Van Eyk, Donald R. Lannin, Arlene N. Chua, Lorraine Tafra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background. Sentinel node biopsy (SNB) for melanoma, with its intradermal (ID) injection, has a higher success rate than SNB for breast cancer, which is typically performed with a subcutaneous (SC) or peritumor injection. It is hypothesized that this is in part due to a slower transit time of lymphatic mapping agents through the parenchymal lymphatics of the breast. No study has investigated differences in transit time between different tissues to account for this clinical observation. The goal of the study was to compare transit time between ID and SC injections with common agents used in lymphatic mapping. Methods. Four injection sites on five domestic pigs were used. Sites were bilateral and included cervical, forelimb, hindlimb, and flank areas. Agents included technetium sulfur colloid (Tc99, filtered and unfiltered), isosulfan blue (IB) dye, and fluorescein (FL) dye. At each site both ID and SC injections were made and the transit time to reach the sentinel node was recorded. The transit time differences were calculated per centimeter distance from the draining lymph node basin. Results. Sentinel nodes were identified draining all sites and found to be hot, blue, or fluorescent (using a Wood's lamp for identification). The cervical and forelimb injection sites drained to the same cervical lymph node basin and both SC and ID injection sites drained to the same sentinel node. Similarly, the hindlimb and flank injection sites both drained to inguinal lymph node basins. The slowest transit time occurred with Tc99 injected SC and the fastest occurred with Tc99 injected ID, whereas both FL dye and IB traveled rapidly to the sentinel node whether injected SC or ID. Large differences were found using unfiltered Tc99 depending on its injection ID (2.7 s/cm ± 0.5) vs SC (249 s/cm ± 14.7, P = 0.008). Conclusions. Tc99 ID injections were significantly faster than SC injection. The slowest and fastest SC injection agents were unfiltered Tc99 and IB, respectively. Dermal injections provide faster transit of lymphatic agents and may improve the identification rate when applied to patients with breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-259
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Breast cancer
  • Sentinel node biopsy
  • Swine model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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