Vascularized lymph node transfer for the treatment of lymphedema: a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical and patient-reported outcomes

Shreya Raman, Sai Anusha Sanka, Jenny Ji, Lauren Yaeger, Gary B. Skolnick, Joani M. Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Aim: The aim of this systematic review was to summarize clinical and patient-reported outcomes (PROs) for various vascularized lymph node transfer (VLNT) donor sites and identify gaps in the literature to guide future research. Methods: A literature search of five databases was performed for articles related to VLNT that were published prior to November 2021. Studies that included clinical outcomes or PROs from at least five adult patients who received VLNTs to treat lymphedema were included. Results: Sixty-six studies met the study criteria. Most studies reported improved limb circumference/volume, reduction or discontinuation of conservative therapy, infection rate reduction, improved PROs, or postoperative imaging findings reflecting functional lymph nodes. There were significantly lower infection rates (P < 0.05) and a trend towards improved PROs in patients who received intra-abdominal flaps, but overall few studies reported these outcomes. There were no significant differences in complication rates at the donor or recipient site based on VLNT donor sites, or between intra-abdominal vs. extra-abdominal VLNT donor sites, although these outcomes are not uniformly reported. Conclusion: This meta-analysis identified that intra-abdominal donor sites have the potential to reduce postoperative infectious episodes more than extra-abdominal donor sites. Though recent investigations address many understudied VLNT donor sites, larger comparative studies and a standardized methodology are needed to better characterize postoperative outcomes, which can offer more concrete evidence to guide surgical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalPlastic and Aesthetic Research
Volume10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Lymphedema
  • lymphedema surgery
  • vascularized lymph node transfer

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