Influence of surgery on upper limb lymphedema volume

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Influence of surgery on upper limb lymphedema volume

Postby patoco » Fri Nov 10, 2006 9:13 am

Poor influence of surgery on upper limb lymphedema volume in patients after breast cancer treatment

Mal Vasc. 2006 Sep;31(4 Pt 1):202-5.

Vignes S, Arrault M, Ebelin M.
Unite de Lymphologie, Hopital Cognacq-Jay, 15 rue Eugene Millon, 75015 Paris.


Secondary upper lymphedema occurs in 15 to 20% of patients after breast cancer treatment. Surgery may be required on lymphedematous limb. The aim of our study was to analyze the effects of surgery on lymphedema volume.


Nine women with upper limb lymphedema after breast cancer treatment were recruited. Mean age at time of breast cancer was 45.6 +/- 8 years. Breast cancer was localized at right side and was treated with mammectomy (n=4), radiotherapy (n=8), chemotherapy (n=4) and antiestrogen (n=5). Mean duration of lymphedema before upper limb surgery was 10 years. Six patients reported one or more previous cellulitis. Surgery was indicated for carpal tunnel syndrome (n=6), forearm (n=2) or humeral (n=1) fracture. Lymphedema volume, calculated by the difference of volume between the lymphedematous and the contralateral arm, was compared before and after surgery.


Six patients had carpal tunnel release by transecting the transverse carpal ligament under local anesthesia with short total time tourniquet. Humeral and forearm fractures were treated with osteosynthesis. Before surgery, lymphedema volume of upper limb was 747 +/- 315 ml. Lymphedema management included low stretch bandages, elastic sleeve, manual lymph drainage. After 8 months follow up, lymphedema volume was significantly higher, 858 +/- 293 ml (p=0.012). Mean absolute variation of lymphedema volume was 111 ml (CI 95%: 32 to 109 ml), i.e. 15% of pre surgery lymphedema volume.


Surgery of carpal tunnel syndrome or osteosynthesis for fractures may lead to increased lymphedema volume in patients previously treated for breast cancer despite compressive therapy. ... Locations=

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I find this study interesting from a couple of perspectives.

First, the incident ratio given for arm lymphedema after breast surgery would seem to be in contradiction to other recent studies that indicate some 35% of breast cancer survivors would acquire lymphedema.

Secondly, this French study also contradicts other studies that seem to indicate that such surgeries do not effect limb volume.

Clearly a follow up study and/or article is needed.

Pat O'

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