Ann Plast Surg. 2023 Mar 6. doi: 10.1097/SAP.0000000000003457. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) is a chronic condition that can negatively affect the quality of life of breast cancer survivors. Immediate lymphatic reconstruction (ILR) at the time of axillary lymph node dissection is emerging as a technique for the prevention of BCRL. This study compared the incidence of BRCL in patients who received ILR and those who were not amenable to ILR.
METHODS: Patients were identified through a prospectively maintained database between 2016 and 2021. Some patients were deemed nonamenable to ILR due to a lack of visualized lymphatics or anatomic variability (eg, spatial relationships or size discrepancies). Descriptive statistics, independent t test, and Pearson χ2 test were used. Multivariable logistic regression models were created to assess the association between lymphedema and ILR. A loose age-matched subsample was created for subanalysis.
RESULTS: Two hundred eighty-one patients were included in this study (252 patients who underwent ILR and 29 patients who did not). The patients had a mean age of 53 ± 12 years and body mass index of 28.6 ± 6.8 kg/m2. The incidence of developing lymphedema in patients with ILR was 4.8% compared with 24.1% in patients who underwent attempted ILR without lymphatic reconstruction (P = 0.001). Patients who did not undergo ILR had significantly higher odds of developing lymphedema compared with those who had ILR (odds ratio, 10.7 [3.2-36.3], P < 0.001; matched OR, 14.2 [2.6-77.9], P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Our study showed that ILR was associated with lower rates of BCRL. Further studies are needed to determine which factors place patients at highest risk of developing BCRL.