Specialized consultations in a hospital-based referral center for patients suspected of having limb lymphedema: Impact on diagnosis

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Abstract

Lymphedema, a chronic debilitating disease, is not always easily diagnosed. A total of 254 new patients ((217 women, 37 men), median (Q1–Q3) age 61 (46–72) years) were referred for suspected limb lymphedema to an exclusively lymphedema-dedicated department for a first consultation (January – March 2015) were included; among 118 with upper limb involvement, 100 (84.7%) were diagnosed with post-breast cancer therapy and four with primary lymphedemas; among 136 with lower limb involvement, 31 (22.8%) were diagnosed with primary lymphedemas and 35 (25.7%) with post-cancer lymphedemas. The main alternative diagnoses were: 32 (45.7%) lipedemas/lipo-lymphedemas and 21 (30%) chronic venous insufficiencies. Age at symptom onset, body mass index, referral origins and first-symptom-to-specialized-consultation intervals differed between primary, post-cancer lymphedema and alternative diagnosis patients. Among the entire cohort, 57 (22.4%) had cellulitis. For all 135 (53.1%) upper or lower limb post-cancer lymphedemas and the 119 (46.9%) others, the median (Q1–Q3) first-symptom-to-specialized-consultation intervals were 1.4 (0.7–3.8) and 4 (1.1–18.8) years, respectively (p < 0.0001). Specialized consultations confirmed primary and post-cancer lymphedema diagnoses and identified others, especially for patients with suspected lower limb lymphedema.

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