Complications From Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer

The below question is answered by Richard M. Kline Jr., M.Dof The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction.

I am recovering from a DIEP flap reconstruction and lymph node transfer. I had breast cancer when I was very young and have had lymphedema for 25 years. I was so happy to hear that there was a surgery that possibly could correct the swelling in my arm that I jumped on it with out really researching. I am two weeks into my recovery and I have noticed swelling in my leg and groin. The groin I think is normal for a surgery site. However, the swelling in my leg Im afraid is the onset of lymphedema. I would appreciate any information you could share with me on this .


Sorry you are having problems.

As your surgeon probably explained to you prior to surgery, vascularized lymph node transfer is experimental surgery, and no one really knows how often it works, if at all, and what the complication rates are.

As your surgeon also probably explained, lower extremity lymphedema is a potential risk of the node harvest. We strictly limit our node dissection to the area lateral to the superficial inferior epigastric vein and superior to the inguinal ligament, and have thus far had no problems with lower extremity lymphedema developing after the procedure. You may wish to consult with your surgeon about having bioimpedance analysis of your affected lower extremity performed to determine whether early lymphedema is actually present. If it is, then prompt institution of treatment may be advisable.

Richard Kline

Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction

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