Objective Lower limb lymphedema (LLL) is the most disabling adverse effect of surgical treatment of vulvar cancer. This study describes the use of microsurgical lymphatic venous anastomosis (LVA) to prevent LLL in patients with vulvar cancer undergoing inguinofemoral lymph node dissection (ILND).
Methods The study included 8 patients with invasive carcinoma of the vulva who underwent unilateral or bilateral ILND. Before incision of the skin in the inguinal region, blue dye was injected in the thigh muscles to identify the lymphatic vessels draining the leg. Lymphatic venous anastomosis was performed by inserting the blue lymphatics coming from the lower limb into one of the collateral branches of the femoral vein (telescopic end-to-end anastomosis). An historical control group of 7 patients, which underwent ILND without LVA, was used as comparison. After 1 month from the surgery, all patients underwent a lymphoscintigraphy.
Results In the study group, 4 patients underwent bilateral ILND, and 4 patients underwent unilateral ILND. Blue-dyed lymphatics and nodes were identified in all patients. It was possible to perform LVA in all the patients. The mean (SD) time required to perform a monolateral LVA was 23.1 (3.6) minutes (range, 17–32 minutes). The mean (SD) follow-up was 16.7 (6.2) months; there was only 1 case of grade 1 lymphedema of the right leg. Lymphoscintigraphic results showed a total mean transport index were 9.08 and 14.54 in the study and the control groups, respectively (P = 0.092).
Conclusions This study shows for the first time the feasibility of LVA in patients with vulvar cancer undergoing ILND. Future studies including larger series of patients should clarify whether this microsurgical technique reduces the incidence of LLL after ILND.
- Limb lymphedema
- Lymph nodes
- Treatment outcome
- Vulvar cancer
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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.