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J Urol. 2002 Apr;167(4):1638-42.

Contemporary morbidity from lymphadenectomy for penile squamous cell carcinoma: the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Experience.

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Department of Urology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.



Inguinal lymphadenectomy can be curative in patients with small volume inguinal metastases and those with more significant adenopathy responding to combination chemotherapy. However, several series collected for 15 to 40 years attest to the significant morbidity associated with lymphadenectomy. We reviewed our recent experience with lymphadenectomy in patients with invasive penile cancer who were judged to require inguinal staging and therapeutic procedures to assess the incidence and magnitude of complications caused by this procedure, especially in those with no palpable adenopathy (prophylactic group).


A total of 106 lymphadenectomy procedures were performed in 53 patients. The indications for dissection were prophylactic in 66 (62%) patients in whom a superficial dissection alone was completed on the ipsilateral side, therapeutic in 28 (26%) in whom superficial, deep and ipsilateral pelvic dissections were performed, and palliative in 12 (11%) undergoing extensive resection of inguinal and abdominal wall tissue after chemotherapy. Minor postoperative complications included those requiring local wound d├ębridement in the clinic, mild to moderate leg edema, seroma formation not requiring aspiration and minimal skin edge necrosis requiring no therapy. Major complications included severe leg edema interfering with ambulation, skin flap necrosis requiring a skin graft, rehospitalization, deep venous thrombosis, death, or reexploration or other invasive procedures performed in the operating room. The incidence and magnitude of complications were compared with prior reports from our center and other series.


A total of 41 (68%) minor and 19 (32%) major complications occurred with the 106 dissections (31 of 53 patients, 58%). Prophylactic and therapeutic dissections were associated with a lower incidence of complications compared with palliative dissections (p = 0.017 to 0.049). The incidence of major complications also trended lower in the prophylactic group compared with other indications (p = 0.05). One patient in the palliative group died of sepsis on postoperative day 15. When compared with 3 prior series, the incidence of skin edge necrosis in our series was significantly lower (8% versus 45% to 62%, p <0.0001). Similarly, the incidence and severity of edema in our series were significantly lower than in a prior report from our institution (23% versus 50%, p <0.0001).


For select patients undergoing prophylactic inguinal dissection to detect the presence of microscopic metastases, the incidence and magnitude of complications appeared acceptable in our contemporary experience. Similarly the morbidity of therapeutic lymphadenectomy appeared acceptable, considering the potential therapeutic benefit. However, significant complications, including death, can be associated with palliative groin dissection. Optimal candidates are those having a significant response to systemic chemotherapy whose groins are grossly uninfected.

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