Background and Aim: Regional lymph nodes are the most frequent site of spread of metastatic melanoma. Operative intervention remains the only potential for cure, but the reported morbidity rate associated with inguinal lymphadenectomy is approximately 50 %. Minimally invasive lymph node dissection (MILND) is an alternative approach to traditional, open inguinal lymph node dissection (OILND). The aim of this study is to evaluate our early experience with MILND and compare this with our OILND experience. Methods: We conducted a prospective study of 13 MILND cases performed for melanoma from 2010 to 2012 at two tertiary academic centers. We compared our outcomes with retrospective data collected on 28 OILND cases performed at the same institutions, by the same surgeons, between 2002 and 2011. Patient characteristics, operative outcomes, and 30-day morbidity were evaluated. Results: Patient characteristics were similar in the two cohorts with no statistically significant differences in patient age, gender, body mass index, or smoking status. MILND required longer operative time (245 vs 138 min, p = 0.0003). The wound dehiscence rate (0 vs 14 %, p = 0.07), hospital readmission rate (7 vs 21 %, p = 0.25), and hospital length of stay (1 vs 2 days, p = 0.01) were all lower in the MILND group. The lymph node count was significantly higher (11 vs 8, p = 0.03) for MILND compared with OILND. Conclusions: MILND for melanoma is a novel alternative to OILND, and our preliminary data suggest that MILND provides an equivalent lymphadenectomy while minimizing the severity of postoperative complications. Further research will need to be conducted to determine if the oncologic outcomes are similar.
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