Study designs of evaluations included in the review
No inclusion criteria for the study design were specified.
Specific interventions included in the review
Studies of sentinel node biopsy where the sentinel node was detected using established techniques and harvested surgically, and where standard histological assessment was used to determine nodal involvement, were eligible for inclusion. Nine of the 19 included studies used standard histological techniques: six used step-serial sectioning and four used immunohistochemistry.
Reference standard test against which the new test was compared
Studies where neck dissection was performed as the reference standard to assess nodal spread, irrespective of the result of sentinel node histology, were eligible for inclusion.
Participants included in the review
Studies of patients older than 16 years, with histologically proven head and neck mucosal squamous cell cancer, were eligible for inclusion. Three hundred and one patients with oral cavity primary tumours and 46 patients with oropharyngeal primary tumours were included; the site of the primary tumour was not specified for 20 patients.
Outcomes assessed in the review
The included studies were required to report sufficient data to calculate the sensitivity and specificity.
How were decisions on the relevance of primary studies made?
Two reviewers, who were blinded to the origin of the article, year of publication, journal and authors, independently assessed studies for inclusion based on the 'Methods' section of each paper. Any disagreements were resolved by re-review.