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George Plitas and Charlotte E. Ariyan

The surgical management of the regional lymph node basin of melanoma has undergone significant changes in the past 2 decades, most of which have been guided by prospective randomized trials. Historically, routine elective lymph node dissection was recommended for the management of melanoma regardless of clinical nodal involvement. Subsequent randomized trials failed to show a clear benefit for all patients, and sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy emerged as an alternative. Although the prognostic value of SLN biopsy in intermediate-thickness melanoma is well accepted, its value for patients with thin and thick lesions is debated. The therapeutic advantage of removing an involved SLN, and the need for a completion lymph node dissection after the identification of a positive SLN, are areas of continued controversy. This article discusses these issues in the management of the regional lymph node basin in patients with melanoma.