ACR Appropriateness Criteria® Imaging of the Axilla

Expert Panel on Breast Imaging

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This publication reviews the current evidence supporting the imaging approach of the axilla in various scenarios with broad differential diagnosis ranging from inflammatory to malignant etiologies. Controversies on the management of axillary adenopathy results in disagreement on the appropriate axillary imaging tests. Ultrasound is often the appropriate initial imaging test in several clinical scenarios. Clinical information (such as age, physical examinations, risk factors) and concurrent complete breast evaluation with mammogram, tomosynthesis, or MRI impact the type of initial imaging test for the axilla. Several impactful clinical trials demonstrated that selected patient's population can received sentinel lymph node biopsy instead of axillary lymph node dissection with similar overall survival, and axillary lymph node dissection is a safe alternative as the nodal staging procedure for clinically node negative patients or even for some node positive patients with limited nodal tumor burden. This approach is not universally accepted, which adversely affect the type of imaging tests considered appropriate for axilla. This document is focused on the initial imaging of the axilla in various scenarios, with the understanding that concurrent or subsequent additional tests may also be performed for the breast. The American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria are evidence-based guidelines for specific clinical conditions that are reviewed annually by a multidisciplinary expert panel. The guideline development and revision include an extensive analysis of current medical literature from peer reviewed journals and the application of well-established methodologies (RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation or GRADE) to rate the appropriateness of imaging and treatment procedures for specific clinical scenarios. In those instances where evidence is lacking or equivocal, expert opinion may supplement the available evidence to recommend imaging or treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S87-S113
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Appropriate use criteria
  • Appropriateness Criteria
  • AUC
  • Axilla
  • Axillary adenopathy
  • Breast cancer
  • Imaging
  • Metastatic adenopathy
  • Nodes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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