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OBJECTIVE: Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) with a superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) tracer was shown to be non-inferior to the standard combined technique in the SentiMAG Multicentre Trial. The MRI subprotocol of this trial aimed to develop a magnetic alternative for pre-operative lymphoscintigraphy (LS). We evaluated the feasibility of using MRI following the administration of magnetic tracer for pre-operative localization of sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) and its potential for non-invasive identification of lymph node (LN) metastases. METHODS: Patients with breast cancer scheduled to undergo SLNB were recruited for pre-operative LS, single photon emission CT (SPECT)-CT and SPIO MRI. T1 weighted turbo spin echo and T2 weighted gradient echo sequences were used before and after interstitial injection of magnetic tracer into the breast. SLNs on MRI were defined as LNs with signal drop and direct lymphatic drainage from the injection site. LNs showing inhomogeneous SPIO uptake were classified as metastatic. During surgery, a handheld magnetometer was used for SLNB. Blue or radioactive nodes were also excised. The number of SLNs and MR assessment of metastatic involvement were compared with surgical and histological outcomes. RESULTS: 11 patients were recruited. SPIO MRI successfully identified SLNs in 10 of 11 patients vs 11 of 11 patients with LS/SPECT-CT. One patient had metastatic involvement of four LNs, and this was identified in one node on pre-operative MRI. CONCLUSION: SPIO MRI is a feasible technique for pre-operative localization of SLNs and, in combination with intraoperative use of a handheld magnetometer, provides an entirely radioisotope-free technique for SLNB. Further research is needed for the evaluation of MRI characterization of LN involvement using subcutaneous injection of magnetic tracer. ADVANCES IN KNOWLEDGE: This study is the first to demonstrate that an interstitially administered magnetic tracer can be used both for pre-operative imaging and intraoperative SLNB, with equal performance to imaging and localization with radioisotopes.

Original publication




Journal article


Br j radiol

Publication Date





Aged, Breast Neoplasms, Contrast Media, Dextrans, Feasibility Studies, Female, Humans, Image Enhancement, Lymph Nodes, Lymphatic Metastasis, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Magnetite Nanoparticles, Middle Aged, Preoperative Care, Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy