Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema: A Review of Management and Innovative Surgical Techniques A Review of Management and Innovative Surgical Techniques

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Keeley D Newsom David Xiang Alan Yang Libby R Copeland-Halperin Anna Weiss Justin M Broyles


Lymphedema is one of the most feared complications of breast cancer treatment. The objective of this article is to review the basic workup, staging, and diagnostic criteria for lymphedema and to discuss non-surgical and surgical treatments, with a focus on breast-cancer related lymphedema. Non-surgical treatment consists of intensive physical therapy including manual lymphatic drainage via massage, daily compression wraps, and exercises to prevent scarring and increase mobility. Surgical intervention is considered when non-surgical treatment is ineffective or more recently as a preventive measure. Surgical interventions, used once lymphedema has developed, include 1) lympho-venous bypass, which is the anastomosis of lymphatic vessels distal to the site of dermal backflow to neighboring venules to shunt lymphatic drainage away from the area of lymphatic injury; 2) vascularized lymph node transplant, in which lymph nodes are harvested from a donor site with their supporting artery and vein and transferred to the affected recipient site; and 3) debulking procedures including liposuction and direct excision. Preventive surgical interventions include 1) lymphatic microsurgical preventive healing approach, known as LYMPHA, which also utilizes lympho-venous anastomoses but at the time of lymph node dissection to anastomose lymphatic channels transected during lymph node dissection with adjacent veins to preserve lymphatic drainage of the arm; and 2) axillary reverse mapping, which involves tracer or dye injection within the ipsilateral arm before axillary surgery so that the breast surgeons are able to delineate nodal drainage and therefore attempt to spare nodes specific to arm tissue provided they are not the sentinel lymph node. Patient selection is critical for these procedures, and requires a multi-disciplinary approach.

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NEWSOM, Keeley D et al. Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema: A Review of Management and Innovative Surgical Techniques. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 10, n. 10, oct. 2022. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 21 apr. 2024. doi:
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