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Ann Surg Oncol. 2010 Sep;17(9):2384-94. doi: 10.1245/s10434-010-0981-8. Epub 2010 Mar 11.

A longitudinal comparison of arm morbidity in stage I-II breast cancer patients treated with sentinel lymph node biopsy, sentinel lymph node biopsy followed by completion lymph node dissection, or axillary lymph node dissection.

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  • 1Department of Surgical Oncology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.



Long-term shoulder and arm function following sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) may surpass that following complete axillary lymph node dissection (CLND) or axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). We objectively examined the morbidity and compared outcomes after SLNB, SLNB + CLND, and ALND in stage I/II breast cancer patients.


Breast cancer patients who had SLNB (n = 51), SLNB + CLND (n = 55), and ALND (n = 65) were physically examined 1 day before surgery (T0), and after 6 (T1), 26 (T2), 52 (T3), and 104 (T4) weeks. Differences in 8 parameters between the affected and unaffected arms were calculated. General linear models were computed to examine time, group, and interaction effects.


All outcomes changed significantly, mostly nonlinearly, over time (T0-T4). Between T1 and T4, limitations decreased in abduction (all groups); anteflexion, abduction-exorotation, abduction strength (SLNB + CLND, ALND); flexion strength (SLNB + CLND); and arm volume (SLNB, SLNB + CLND). At T4, limitations in anteflexion (SLNB, ALND), abduction (SLNB + CLND, ALND), exorotation (ALND), abduction-exorotation (all groups), and volume (SLNB + CLND, ALND) increased significantly compared with T0. The SLNB group showed an advantage in anteflexion, abduction, abduction-exorotation, and volume. Groups changed significantly but differently over time in anteflexion, abduction, abduction/exorotation, abduction strength, flexion strength, and volume. Effect sizes varied from 0.19 to 0.00.


Initial declines in range of motion and strength were followed by recovery, although not always to presurgery levels. Range of motion and volume outcomes were better for SLNB than ALND, but not strength. SLNB surpassed SLNB + CLND in 2 of the range of motion variables. The clinical relevance of these results is negligible.

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