Sentinel node biopsy is generally a safe procedure. But as with any surgery, sentinel node biopsy carries a risk of complications, including:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain or bruising at the biopsy site
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to the dye used for the procedure
  • Lymphedema — a condition in which your lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain lymph fluid from an area of your body, causing fluid buildup and swelling

Lymphedema

Although lymphedema is an unlikely complication of sentinel node biopsy, one of the main reasons sentinel node biopsy was developed was to decrease the chance of developing lymphedema, which is more likely to occur if many lymph nodes are removed from one area. Because only a few lymph nodes are removed, the risk of lymphedema following sentinel node biopsy is very small. Dozens of other lymph nodes will remain in the region of your body where the sentinel node biopsy is done. In most cases, those remaining lymph nodes can effectively process the lymph fluid.

Nov. 15, 2011