Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Ann Surg Oncol


Background/Objective: Lymphedema following axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) is a common complication that can negatively impact quality of life as it reduces the functional capacity of the affected arm. It can also predispose patients to serious infectious complications such as limb cellulitis and development of malignancy. The lymphatic microsurgical preventive healing approach (LYMPHA procedure) involves the creation of a lymphatic‐to‐venous bypass at the time of axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) as a means of preventing lymphedema. The goal of our study is to assess the effect of LYMPHA on the development of clinical and subjective post‐operative lymphedema.

Methods: This is a prospective longitudinal study in patients with breast cancer who underwent ALND with or without LYMPHA. The incidence of lymphedema was compared between ALND alone and ALND with LYMPHA using descriptive statistics. Limb circumference of both affected and unaffected limbs were measured and used to calculate limb volume by using an equation that converts limb circumference (cm) to volume (cc). Lymphedema was defined as a volume difference of ≥10% between the affected and unaffected limb. Patient symptoms were also assessed and compared between the 2 groups. Patient demographics including age, preoperative body mass index (BMI), smoking history, comorbidities, receipt of neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy, and receipt of adjuvant radiation were compared between the groups.

Results: In our cohort of 139 patients, 104 underwent ALND with LYMPHA, while 35 underwent ALND alone. Of these, 52.5% of patients had documented interlimb circumference measurements. The mean age was 52.6 years old, mean BMI was 30.16 kg/m2, 4 patients (2.9%) had pre‐operative radiation, 102 patients (73.4 %) had post‐operative radiation, 86 patients (61.9 %) had neoadjuvant chemotherapy, 41 and 58 patients (41.7 %) had adjuvant chemotherapy. There were no significant differences between the 2 groups in the above demographics and treatment variables, except those who underwent ALND alone had a significantly higher incidence of diabetes mellitus (25.7% patients with ALND alone vs 11.5% LYMPHA patients (p=0.043)). Based on patient reported symptoms and the need to initiate complete decongestive therapy, 57.1% (n=20) of patients who underwent ALND alone developed lymphedema compared to 26.9% (n=28 patients) of those who had ALND with LYMPHA (p=0.0011). When comparing the relative volume difference, 57.1% (n=8) of ALND alone patients developed lymphedema versus 20.3% (n=12) of LYMPHA patients (p=0.0055).

Conclusions: Our data support the universal use of LYMPHA at the time of ALND as a means of preventing upper extremity lymphedema. Further studies are needed to evaluate quality of life and functional differences between those who had LYMPHA and those who did not.




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