After axillary lymph node dissection (ALND), patients are cautioned against ipsilateral interventional procedures to avoid the theoretical increased risk of postoperative complications, particularly lymphedema. The authors' goal was to evaluate the complications of elective hand surgery after ALND. The authors reviewed patients presenting to their hand clinic from 1998 to 2011, selecting those with a diagnosis of breast cancer or melanoma and a history of previous ALND; the authors excluded those treated nonoperatively and those treated with elective surgery in the contralateral hand. Average age of the 22 patients meeting the criteria (20 with a history of breast cancer, 6 with preexisting lymphedema) was 53.9 years (range, 26.7 to 73.6 years) at the time of ALND and 63.1 years (range, 31.7 to 83.5 years) at the time of hand surgery. Average interval between surgeries was 9.2 years (range, 8 days to 37.3 years). Follow-up averaged 9.2 months (range, 8 days to 41.7 months). Fifteen patients were surveyed for long-term postoperative results (average surgery-to-survey interval, 4.3 years [range, 1 to 11.9 years]). Fifteen patients had uneventful postoperative recoveries, 4 had peri-incisional erythema requiring oral antibiotics, 1 had incisional pain and scarring, 1 had chronic wound-healing issues, and 1 had a dehiscence requiring a return to the operating room. In the 15 patients who completed the follow-up survey, there was no disease exacerbation in the 3 patients with preexisting lymphedema, and there were no new cases of lymphedema. Routine minor hand surgery did not result in lymphedema and did not increase existing lymphedema in these patients with previous ipsilateral ALND, but almost one-third of them had short-term complications in the postoperative recovery period.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine