Sentinel node procedures (SNP) are performed with the use of tracer-agents, mainly radio-colloid and/or blue dye. Fluorescent agents have emerged as a new tracer-agent to identify the SLN intra-operatively with near-infrared imaging. Our aim is to compare the detection rate of fluorescent agents to current “golden standards” (blue dye and/or radio-colloid) for the SNP by means of a systematic review and meta-analysis without any restrictions based on tumor type. A systematic search in PubMed, Embase and The Cochrane Library was performed. Articles that compared the detection rates of fluorescent agents with radio-colloid and/or blue dye were included. Meta-analyses were performed for breast, gynecological and dermatological cancer using a random effects model. In total 6195 articles were screened which resulted in a final inclusion of 55 articles. All studies used indocyanine green (ICG) as fluorescent agent. Meta-analyses comparing ICG with blue dye showed a significant and clinically relevant difference in detection rate in favor of ICG, for both breast, dermatological and gynecological cancer. Meta-analyses comparing ICG with radio-colloid did not show any significant differences, with the exception of ICG versus radio-colloid + blue dye for the bilateral SLN detection in gynecological cancer. Near-infrared fluorescence imaging using ICG provides a higher detection rate compared to blue dye for the SNP in a range of different tumor types. SLN detection rates of ICG are comparable to radio-colloid. Due to their complementary characteristics in terms of spatial resolution and transdermal sensitivity, we suggest to use a combination of both ICG and a radio-colloid.