Postmastectomy Lymphedema: Long-term Results Following Microsurgical Lymph Node Transplantation

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Abstract

Background and Objectives:

Lymphedema complicating breast cancer treatment remains a challenging problem. The purpose of this study was to analyze the long-term results following microsurgical lymph node (LN) transplantation.

Methods:

Twenty-four female patients with lymphedema for more than 5 years underwent LN transplantation. They were treated by physiotherapy and resistant to it. LNs were harvested in the femoral region, transferred to the axillary region, and transplanted by microsurgical procedures. Long-term results were evaluated according to skin elasticity, decrease, or disappearance of lymphedema assessed by measurements, isotopic lymphangiography, and ability to stop physiotherapy.

Results:

The postoperative period was uneventful; skin infectious diseases disappeared in all patients. Upper limb perimeter returned to normal in 10 cases, decreased in 12 cases, and remained unchanged in 2 cases. Five of 16 (31%) isotopic lymphoscintigraphies demonstrated activity of the transplanted nodes. Physiotherapy was discontinued in 15 patients (62.5%). Ten patients were considered as cured, important improvement was noted in 12 patients, and only 2 patients were not improved.

Conclusion:

LN transplantation is a safe procedure permitting good long-term results, disappearance, or a noteworthy improvement, in postmastectomy lymphedema, especially in the early stages of the disease.

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