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International Angiology 2017 February;36(1):50-8

DOI: 10.23736/S0392-9590.16.03630-0


language: English

Treatment of postmastectomy lymphedema by bypassing the armpit with implanted silicone tubings

Waldemar L. OLSZEWSKI 1-3, Marzanna ZALESKA 1-4

1 Department of Vascular Surgery, Central Clinical Hospital, Ministry of Home Affairs, Warsaw, Poland; 2 Department of Transplantation Surgery, Mossakowski Medical Research Center, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland; 3 Department of Epigenetics, Mossakowski Medical Research Center, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland; 4 Department of Applied Physiology, Mossakowski Medical Research Center, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland


BACKGROUND: Women treated for breast cancer are facing a life-time risk of developing lymphedema in up to 40% of this population. In advanced cases of lymphedema main lymphatics are obstructed and tissue fluid accumulates in the interstitial spaces forming fluid “lakes”and “channels”. The only solution for fluid drainage would be creating artificial channel for flow away to the non-obstructed regions. The aim of this study was to form artificial pathways for edema fluid flow by subcutaneous implantation of silicone tubes into the swollen limb.
METHODS: Implantation was carried out in ten patients with lymphedema after mastectomy, axillary lymphadenectomy and radiotherapy, stage II and III. Tubes were placed from hand dorsum, through forearm and arm to scapular region. Implantation was followed by routine arm sleeve compression. Prophylactic long term penicillin was administered. The follow-up is at present 10 months.
RESULTS: We observed: implanted tubes brought about fast evacuation of excess tissue fluid; most decrease in circumference, volume and stiffness occurred within first two weeks; less limb heaviness and easier hand grip; lymphoscintigraphy tracer accumulated in tubes and around them; free fluid was seen on ultrasonography at both ends of tubes and in between; no postoperative complications.
CONCLUSIONS: We propose a multimodality method including implantation, limb compression to generate fluid pressure gradient for flow and prevention of inflammation by administration of long-term penicillin. Simplicity of surgical procedure and lack of reaction to implant make the method worth applying in advanced stages of lymphedema in large cohorts of patients.

KEY WORDS: Lymphedema - Lymphatic vessels - Mastectomy - Postoperative complications

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