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Ann Surg. 2014 Jun 19. [Epub ahead of print]

Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer for Treatment of Lymphedema: A Comprehensive Literature Review.

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  • 1*Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore; and †Section of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, The University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences, Chicago, IL.



A comprehensive literature review of VLNT with updates and comparisons on current application, techniques, results, studies and possible future implications.


Lymphedema is a debilitating condition that often results secondary to treatment of cancer. Unfortunately there is no cure. However, microsurgical procedures such as VLNT has gained popularity as there have been increasing reports that VLNT may help alleviate the severity of lymphedema.


A review of literature was conducted over major medical indices (PubMed-MEDLINE, Factiva, Scopus, Sciencedirect, EMBASE). Search terms were focused on vascularized, lymph node transfer (also autologous, lymph node transplant) to cover both human and animal studies. Each study was verified for the nature of the procedure; a free microsurgical flap containing lymph nodes for the purpose of relieving lymphedema.


There are human and animal studies that individually report clear benefits, but because of methodological shortcomings comparative studies with uniform patient selection and monitoring are lacking.


Although the results with the use of VLNT for treatment of lymphedema have been largely positive, further exploration into standardized protocols for diagnosis, treatment optimization, and patient outcomes assessment is needed.

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