Outcomes of Vascularized Lymph Node Transplantation for Treatment of Lymphedema

Mark V. Schaverien, Malke Asaad, Jesse C. Selber, Jun Liu, Dawn N. Chen, Melissa S. Hall, Charles E. Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: A growing body of evidence supports the efficacy of surgical treatments for lymphedema. This study reports the outcomes of vascularized lymph node transplantation (VLNT) for the treatment of patients with lymphedema compared with maximal conservative treatment alone. Study Design: Consecutive patients undergoing VLNT to treat primary and secondary lymphedema affecting the upper or lower extremities were included. All patients were optimized preoperatively with conservative therapy. Demographic and treatment information was collected, and outcomes data were electronically captured prospectively; descriptive statistics were performed. Results: There were 134 patients included that had achieved maximal reductions by conservative therapy preoperatively. This series included jejunal mesenteric (n = 25), groin (n = 43), lateral thoracic (n = 31), omental or right gastroepiploic (n = 21), and submental (n = 14) VLN flaps. At 24 months postoperatively, there were significant reductions in limb volume change (mean [SD] 45.7% [8.7%]; p = 0.002) LDex score (mean [SD] 59.8% [8.7%]; p < 0.001), Lymphedema Life Impact Scale score (mean [SD] 61.6% [5.9]; p < 0.001), and cellulitis episodes (97.9%; p < 0.001). At 3 and 6 months postoperatively, limb volume change was significantly greater for the upper than the lower extremity, otherwise outcomes were similar. There were no flap losses and overall outcomes were similar between the different VLN flap types. Conclusions: Treatment of lymphedema using VLNT resulted in progressive, significant reductions in limb volume, bioimpedance spectroscopy measurements of extracellular fluid, and episodes of cellulitis, with improved patient-reported outcomes and limb function measures compared with maximal conservative therapy alone. The complication rate was low and there were no significant outcomes differences between the VLNT types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)982-994
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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