Lymphedema after complete axillary node dissection for melanoma: Assessment using a new, objective definition

Emma C. STARRITT, David JOSEPH, J. Gregory MCKINNON, Sing Kai LO, Johannes H. W. DE WILT, John F. THOMPSON

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Abstract

Objectives: The objectives of this study were to define appropriate criteria for assessing the presence of lymphedema, and to report the prevalence and risk factors for development of upper limb lymphedema after level I-III axillary dissection for melanoma. 
Summary Background Data: The lack of a consistent and reliable objective definition for lymphedema remains a significant barrier to appreciating its prevalence after axillary dissection for melanoma (or breast carcinoma). 
Methods: Lymphedema was assessed in 107 patients (82 male, 25 female) who had previously undergone complete level I-III axillary dissection. Of the 107 patients, 17 had also received postoperative axillary radiotherapy. Arm volume was measured using a water displacement technique. Change in volume of the arm on the side of the dissection was referenced to the volume of the other (control) arm. Volume measurements were corrected for the effect of handedness using corrections derived from a control group. Classification and regression tree (CART) analysis was used to determine a threshold fractional arm volume increase above which volume changes were considered to indicate lymphedema. 
Results: Based on the CART analysis results, lymphedema was defined as an increase in arm volume greater than 16% of the volume of the control arm. Using this definition, lymphedema prevalence for patients in the present study was 10% after complete level I-III axillary dissection for melanoma and 53% after additional axillary radiotherapy. Radiotherapy and wound complications were independent risk factors for the development of lymphedema. 
Conclusions: A suggested objective definition for arm lymphedema after axillary dissection is an arm volume increase of greater than 16% of the volume of the control arm. Copyright © 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)866-874
JournalAnnals of Surgery
Volume240
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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Lymphedema
Dissection
Melanoma
Arm
Radiotherapy
Regression Analysis
Functional Laterality
Upper Extremity
Breast Neoplasms
Control Groups
Water
Wounds and Injuries

Citation

Starritt, E. C., Joseph, D., McKinnon, J. G., Lo, S. K., De Wilt, J. H. W., & Thompson, J. F. (2004). Lymphedema after complete axillary node dissection for melanoma: Assessment using a new, objective definition. Annals of Surgery, 240(5), 866-874. doi: 10.1097/01.sla.0000143271.32568.2b