Laparoscopic sentinel node navigation surgery for early gastric cancer
Currently, the most accurate method for identifying lymph node metastasis is intraoperative diagnosis by sentinel node (SN) biopsy. Based on the SNNS study—a recent large-scale, nationwide, multicenter prospective study—the SN concept seems to be scientifically valid in patients with early gastric cancer. SN biopsy is a multistep technique consisted of six essential elements: indication, the selection of a tracer, a proper tracer injection method, the objective detection of SNs, a reliable biopsy technique, and the precise detection of nodal metastasis. For SN biopsy of gastric cancer, these elements have been validated as follows: the indication should be limited to clinical T1 less than 4 cm in diameter; combination mapping with radioactive colloid and blue dye is used as the standard; and endoscopic submucosal injection is the standard tracer injection. Detection of SNs and a reliable biopsy technique are enabled by adaptation of lymphatic basin dissection, a proper biopsy technique for gastric cancer. Lymphatic basin dissection is a selective lymphadenectomy procedure for dissecting basins en bloc, collecting lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels stained with dye. Lymphatic basin dissection is superior to the ordinary pick-up method, not only for minimizing the rate of missed SNs, but also in terms of oncological safety as it complements an intraoperative frozen section diagnosis by serving as a backup dissection. Moreover, indocyanine green (ICG) fluorescence mapping has been developed in recent years. ICG fluorescence mapping is superior because of its high sensitivity and signal stability. Moreover, it is feasible for both open and laparoscopic gastrectomy in treating early gastric cancer. SN biopsy has brought dramatic changes to laparoscopic surgery for early gastric cancer. With laparoscopic SN biopsy using ICG fluorescence navigation, laparoscopic surgery for early gastric cancer has changed from the uniform standard gastrectomy with D1+ into a tailor-made function-preserving surgical procedure, such as local resection with lymphatic basin dissection.