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M. L. Gemignani MD, H. S. Cody MD, J. V. Fey MPH, K. N. Tran BA, E. Venkatraman PhD, P. I. Borgen MD
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Background: The introduction of SLNB has allowed accurate staging in early-stage breast carcinomas and has minimized the number of unnecessary ALNDs. Intraoperative frozen-section analysis is a fundamental component of the sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) procedure. Some patients have positive nodes on frozen-section analysis and thus undergo a conventional axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) at the time of the SLNB. A few patients have negative nodes on frozen-section analysis but have subsequent evidence of metastases on final pathologic examination. The purpose of our study was 2-fold: to compare the hospital-related charges of patients undergoing staging by SLNB with those of patients undergoing conventional ALND and to assess whether the different outcomes associated with SLNB adversely affect the charges incurred with this procedure.
Methods: Our study group consisted of 100 patients with T1 breast cancer and breast conservation therapy who underwent either SLNB or ALND from July 1, 1997, to June 30, 1998. We identified the first 50 consecutive patients to undergo SLNB during this period. We chose a similar cohort of 50 patients for ALND. Mean hospital-related charges for the SLNB patients were categorized and compared with those for the ALND patients.
Results: Results for the two groups were analyzed using a two-sample Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Charges for the OR and hospital stay were less for the SLNB group (P<.05). Frozen-section analysis in the SLNB group contributed to the significant difference in charges for pathologic evaluation. Overall, the two groups showed no significant difference in total hospital-related charges.
Conclusions: When SLNB is used for T1 tumors, a small percentage of patients (10% in our study) will return to the operating room for an ALND. This small percentage does not increase the charges related to SLNB, however, as the reduced stay for most patients offsets this subgroup’s contribution to the total hospital-related charges. Thus, in patients with clinical stage I breast cancer, SLNB does not cause significantly higher hospital-related charges compared with conventional ALND.
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