Microsurgical techniques in the treatment of breast cancer-related lymphedema: a systematic review of efficacy and patient outcomes.
INTRODUCTION: Secondary lymphedema is the abnormal collection of lymphatic fluid within subcutaneous structures. Patients with lymphedema suffer a low quality of life. In our study, we aim to provide a systematic review of the current data on patient outcomes regarding breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL), and the most prevalent reconstructive techniques.
METHODS: A PubMed (MEDLINE) and Scopus literature search was performed in September 2020. Studies were screened based on inclusion/exclusion criteria. The protocol was registered at the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO), and it was reported in line with the PRISMA statement (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses).
RESULTS: The search yielded 254 papers from 2010 to 2020. 67 were included in our study. Lymphaticovenous anastomosis (LVA)-a minimally invasive procedure diverting the lymph into the dermal venous drainage system-combined with postoperative bandaging and compression garments yields superior results with minimal donor site lymphedema morbidity. Vascularized lymph node transfer (VLNT)-another microsurgical technique, often combined with autologous free flap breast reconstruction-improves lymphedema and brachial plexus neuropathies, and reduces the risk of cellulitis. The combination of LVA and VLNT or with other methods maximizes their effectiveness. Vascularized lymph vessel transfer (VLVT) consists of harvesting certain lymph vessels, sparing the donor site's lymph nodes.
CONCLUSION: Together with integrated lymphedema therapy, proper staging, and appropriate selection of procedure, safe and efficient surgical techniques can be beneficial to many patients with BCRL.
Gasteratos K, Morsi-Yeroyannis A, Vlachopoulos NC, Spyropoulou GA, Del Corral G, Chaiyasate K. Microsurgical techniques in the treatment of breast cancer-related lymphedema: a systematic review of efficacy and patient outcomes. Breast Cancer. 2021 Sep;28(5):1002-1015. doi: 10.1007/s12282-021-01274-5. Epub 2021 Jul 12. PMID: 34254232; PMCID: PMC8354929.