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Ann Surg. 2012 Mar;255(3):468-73. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3182426757.

Microvascular breast reconstruction and lymph node transfer for postmastectomy lymphedema patients.

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Department of Plastic Surgery, Turku University Central Hospital, Turku, Finland.



Postoperative lymphedema after breast cancer surgery is a challenging problem. Recently, a novel microvascular lymph node transfer technique provided a fresh hope for patients with lymphedema. We aimed to combine this new method with the standard breast reconstruction.


During 2008-2010, we performed free lower abdominal flap breast reconstruction in 87 patients. For all patients with lymphedema symptoms (n = 9), we used a modified lower abdominal reconstruction flap containing lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels surrounding the superficial circumflex vessel pedicle. Operation time, donor site morbidity, and postoperative recovery between the 2 groups (lymphedema breast reconstruction and breast reconstruction) were compared. The effect on the postoperative lymphatic vessel function was examined.


The average operation time was 426 minutes in the lymphedema breast reconstruction group and 391 minutes in the breast reconstruction group. The postoperative abdominal seroma formation was increased in patients with lymphedema. Postoperative lymphoscintigraphy demonstrated at least some improvement in lymphatic vessel function in 5 of 6 patients with lymphedema. The upper limb perimeter decreased in 7 of 9 patients. Physiotherapy and compression was no longer needed in 3 of 9 patients. Importantly, we found that human lymph nodes express high levels of endogenous lymphatic vessel growth factors. Transfer of the lymph nodes and the resulting endogenous growth factor expression may thereby induce the regrowth of lymphatic network in the axilla. No edema problems were detected in the lymph node donor area.


Simultaneous breast and lymphatic reconstruction is an ideal option for patients who suffer from lymphedema after mastectomy and axillary dissection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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