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Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2011 Jan;108(3):32-8. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2011.0032. Epub 2011 Jan 21.

The diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue sarcomas of the limbs.

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  • 1Abteilung Plastische und Handchirurgie, Universit√§tsklinikum Freiburg, Hugstetter Str. 55, 79106 Freiburg, Germany.



The diagnosis of soft-tissue sarcomas of the limbs is often delayed, sometimes markedly so, even though prompt and appropriate treatment improves survival and lowers the amputation rate.


On the basis of a selective literature review and consideration of the relevant guidelines, we developed an algorithm that can serve as a guide to the diagnosis of soft-tissue tumors in general and to the treatment of soft-tissue sarcomas of the limbs.


Surgical resection accompanied by multimodal therapy is the only treatment strategy for soft-tissue sarcoma that provides a chance of cure. Particularly when the tumor is located in the distal part of a limb, plastic-reconstructive surgical techniques often enable adequate local control, along with limb salvage and preservation of function. The role of adjuvant or neo-adjuvant radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy is currently debated. The overall survival rate at 5 years is 87% for low-grade sarcomas and 62% for high-grade sarcomas.


Any solid mass of the limbs that has been present for more than four weeks requires diagnostic evaluation. Excisional biopsy is suitable only for epifascial lesions measuring less than 5 cm in diameter. All other lesions should be imaged with MRI and then diagnosed with an incisional biopsy. Patients with soft tissue sarcomas must be treated in an interdisciplinary collaboration so that they can undergo multimodal treatment. The proposed algorithm should help avoid delays in diagnosis and optimize treatment strategies.

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