The effect of prophylactic lymphovenous anastomosis and shunts for preventing cancer-related lymphedema: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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Lymphedema is one of the most dreaded side effects to any cancer treatment involving lymphadenectomy. Progressed lymphedema is adversely complex and currently there is no widely acknowledged curative treatment. Therefore recent focus has shifted to risk reduction and prevention. It has been hypothesized that bypassing lymphatic vessels to veins prophylactically, could minimize the lymphatic dysfunction seen following lymphadenectomy.


To investigate this possible future treatment modality, we performed a systematic meta-analysis of studies treating patients with prophylactic lymphovenous analysisstomosis (LVA) for the prevention of secondary lymphedema following lymphadenectomy. A systematic search yielded 12 articles included in the qualitative analysis and four of these were further eligible to be included in the quantitative analysis.


We found that patients treated with prophylactic LVA had a significant reduction in lymphedema incidence (Relative risk: 0.33, 95%CI: 0.19 to 0.56) when compared to patients receiving no prophylactic treatment (P < 0.0001).


Prophylactic LVA in relation to lymphadenectomy shows promising results, however because of the low number of eligible studies and method heterogeneity between studies, there is an urgent need for uniformly high quality studies, before the treatment can be concluded effective.

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