Background. Sentinel node biopsy is becoming the staging investigation of choice for early breast cancer. Optimal identification of the sentinel node requires the utilization of a radionuclide in combination with blue dye. Gamma probe guided surgery is a skill that is currently unfamiliar to many surgeons. Appropriate training within the surgical skills laboratory could play a major role in the widespread implementation of this technique, but no suitable model currently exists for this purpose. Aim. To develop a realistic phantom for the teaching and practice of the core new skills required of a surgeon to perform gamma probe guided sentinel node biopsy in breast cancer. Methods. We describe the develop ment of our sentinel node biopsy simulator which consists of a torso with its arm extended in an operating position. The replaceable breast and axilla are constructed from a thermoplastic elastomer gel, which has similar physical and radiation attenuation properties to that of human tissue. Radionuclide injection sites and radioactive sentinel nodes are simulated by hollow blue coloured PVC beads filled with Technetium-99m. The model allows demonstration and practice of injection techniques, imaging techniques and gamma probe guided removal of sentinel nodes. Conclusion. We believ e that training for sentinel node biopsy should begin in the surgical skills laboratory. The model we have developed is able to provide an accurate simulation of all new practical skills required for accurate sentinel node identification. It is an important aid to training in the sentinel lymph node biopsy procedure for breast carcinoma. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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