A Four-Year Institutional Experience of Immediate Lymphatic Reconstruction

Document Type


Publication Date



Surgery, Oncology

Journal Title

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery


INTRODUCTION: Up to 1 in 3 patients may go on to develop breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) after treatment. Immediate Lymphatic Reconstruction (ILR) is a surgical procedure that has been shown in early studies to reduce the risk of BCRL. However, long-term outcomes are limited due to its recent introduction and different institutions' eligibility requirements. This study evaluates the incidence of BCRL in a cohort that underwent ILR over the long-term. METHODS: A retrospective review of all patients referred for ILR at our institution from September 2016 through September 2020 was performed. Patients with preoperative measurements, a minimum 6-months follow-up data and at least one completed lymphovenous bypass were identified. Medical records were reviewed for demographics, cancer treatment data, intra-operative management and lymphedema incidence.Results: A total of 186 patients with unilateral node-positive breast cancer underwent axillary nodal surgery and attempt at ILR over the study period. Ninety patients underwent successful ILR and met all eligibility criteria, with a mean patient age of 54 (sd: 12.1) years and median BMI of 26.6 (q1-q3: 24.0-30.7) kg/m2. Median number of lymph nodes removed was 14 (q1-q3: 8-19). Median follow-up was 17 months (range: 6-49). 87% of patients underwent adjuvant radiotherapy of which 97% received regional lymph node radiation. At the end of the study period, we found an overall 9% rate of LE. CONCLUSION: Utilizing strict follow-up guidelines over the long-term, our findings support ILR at time of axillary lymph node dissection is an effective procedure that reduces the risk of BCRL in a high-risk patient population.