Background: Vascularized lymph node transfer (VLNT) microsurgery is conducted in selected specialist lymphatic programs as a surgical treatment option for breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) with variation in treatment outcomes. Methods and Results: Ten patients with BCRL underwent VLNT from 2012 to 2015. Donor sites were the inguinal (n = 6) or supraclavicular fossa/neck (n = 4) regions and recipient sites were the axilla (n = 6) or elbow regions (n = 4). Outcomes included changes in limb volume and extracellular fluid ratios, postoperative garment use, number of cellulitis episodes, and self-reported symptom improvement. At a mean follow-up of 46 months from surgery (range: 28-66 months), the excess volume in the affected arm had reduced (n = 4) or remained stable (n = 1) for 5 of 10 patients (50%) (mean change: -106.4 mL, range: -515.5 to +69.6 mL). Four of these five patients had also reduced (n = 3) or discontinued (n = 1) wearing compression garments and three reported a reduction in episodes of cellulitis. The remaining five patients had an increase of over 100 mL in postoperative excess volume (mean change: 295.8 mL, range: 142.1-382.8 mL). Three of these five patients reported noncompliance with compression garments. Despite the increase in limb volume, some patients reported softness in swelling (n = 3) and better response to conservative treatment (n = 1). Conclusion: Our results warrant continuation of VLNT as a surgical treatment option for patients with BCRL and show that the burden of conservative management such as wearing garments can be reduced over time for some patients. Longer term follow-up with standardized measures across all centers is required to further investigate VLNT.
- breast cancer-related lymphedema
- quality of life