Cumulative Experience in Lymphovenous Anastomosis for Lymphedema Treatment: The Learning Curve Effect on the Overall Outcome

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BackgroundThe lymphovenous anastomosis (LVA) has become one of the treatment options for lymphedema. However, it is regarded as a difficult surgery that many young microsurgeons are reluctant to try. This report investigates the learning curve in regard to symptom improvement.MethodsThis is a retrospective analysis performed in 33 consecutive lymphedema patients (38 extremities) who underwent only LVAs from August 2010 to February 2016. Surgical outcomes in regard to surgeon's experience were evaluated. The surgeons experience was divided into three groups: early group with less than 2 years, moderate with 2 to 4 years, and mature group with more than 4 years of experience.ResultsA total of 31 limbs (8/8 in upper extremity and 23/30 in lower extremity) showed improvement. When we compare volume change and recurrence of cellulitis with regard to surgeon's experience, there were no statistically significant differences. However, the mean time per LVA was significantly decreased as the experience increased over time (p = 0.017).ConclusionLVA is an effective treatment option to reduce the volume in the affected limb and to improve symptoms involved. Regardless of the number and experience of the surgeons, cellulitis improves significantly after LVA. The experience of the surgeon does not significantly impact the positive outcome while proficiency increases with experience.

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