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Vascularized lymph node transfer for surgical treatments of upper versus lower extremity lymphedema

      Abstract

      Objective

      The purpose of this study was to compare clinical outcomes after vascularized lymph node transfer (VLNT) for the treatment of lymphedema performed on the upper and lower extremities.

      Methods

      Between April 2015 and January 2020, 71 patients with advanced-stage lymphedema, categorized as International Society of Lymphology late stage 2 or 3, who underwent VLNT in upper and lower extremities were included in this study. Thirty-seven and 34 patients underwent VLNT in upper and lower extremities, respectively. The circumference of the affected and unaffected extremities was measured at baseline, follow-up visits, and at the last visit. The circumference was measured in six places on the extremities, and the circumference and volume percent differences between the affected and unaffected extremities were calculated. First, we compared preoperative and postoperative extremity circumferences in the overall, upper, and lower extremity groups. Second, we compared circumference and volume percent differences between the affected and unaffected extremities calculated at the last visit to identify the degree of improvement by VLNT in the upper and lower extremity groups.

      Results

      The results of the comparative analysis between the preoperative and postoperative extremity circumferences showed that all postoperative extremity circumferences measured at the last visit were decreased compared with the preoperative values in the overall, upper, and lower extremity groups. In the upper extremity group, the circumference percent difference measured at the elbow was 23.1% before surgery and decreased to 13.4% at the last visit (P < .001). In the lower extremity group, the circumference percent difference measured at the knee was 24.4% before surgery and decreased to 17.4% at the last visit (P = .003). In the results of comparative analysis between the upper and lower extremity groups, there was a statistically significant difference in the postoperative circumference percent differences at the elbow/knee calculated at the last visit (P = .048). Similarly, there were statistically significant differences in circumference percent differences in two of six measurement sites at the last visit between the upper and lower extremity groups. However, there was no statistically significant difference in the volume percent difference calculated at the last visit between the upper and lower extremity groups.

      Conclusions

      These results demonstrate that VLNT may be effective in treating patients with advanced-stage lymphedema. However, patients with upper extremity lymphedema demonstrate superior outcomes compared with those with lower extremity lymphedema.

      Keywords

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