Aims: The clinical significance of nonvisualized sentinel lymph nodes (non-vSLNs) is unknown. The authors sought to determine the incidence of non-vSLNs on lymphoscintigraphy, the identification rate during surgery, factors associated with non-vSLNs and related axillary management. Patients & methods: A total of 30,508 consecutive SLN procedures performed at a single institution from 2000 to 2017 were retrospectively studied. Associations between clinicopathological factors and the identification of SLNs during surgery were assessed. Results: Non-vSLN occurred in 525 of the procedures (1.7%). In 73.3%, at least one SLN was identified intraoperatively. Nodal involvement was only significantly associated with SLN nonidentification (p < 0.001). Conclusion: Patients with non-vSLN had an increased risk for SLN metastasis. The detection rate during surgery was consistent, reducing the amount of unnecessary axillary dissection.