INTRODUCTION: The European Sentinel Node (SENT) trial addressed the question of the clinically lymph node negative (cN0) neck in early oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Apart from reducing neck dissection numbers, sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) may reduce treatment cost. Using a treatment model derived from SENT trial information, estimates were produced of relative treatment costs between patients managed through a traditional surgical or SLNB pathway.
METHODS: The model created two management approaches, the traditional surgical pathway and SLNB pathway. Using SENT trial data regarding the proportion of patients with positive, negative and false negative SLNB's a relative cost ratio (RCR) for 100 hypothetical patients passing down each pathway was generated.
RESULTS: From a cohort of 481 patients, 25% had a positive SLNB, 75% a negative result and 2.5% a false negative result. Treatment of 100 hypothetical patients using the SLNB pathway is 0.35-0.60 the cost of treating the same cohort using traditional surgery techniques. Even if 100% of SLNB's are positive the SLNB approach is 0.91 of the cost of the traditional surgical approach.
CONCLUSION: The SLNB approach appears to be cheaper relative to the traditional surgical approach, especially when extrapolated to 100 hypothetical patients.