Background It has recently been reported that, using axillary reverse mapping (ARM), the lymphatics from the arm can be spared to reduce the incidence of breast-cancer-related lymphoedema (BCRL). The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of selective axillary dissection (SAD) after using ARM and partially preserving arm drainage, and to assess the occurrence of BCRL. Methods Using a radioisotope and lymphoscintigraphy, ARM was performed in 60 patients scheduled for SAD, who were subsequently divided for the purpose of comparing the BCRL rates into: group A, comprising 45 patients who successfully underwent SAD with a residual lymphatic hot spot; and group B with 15 whose hot nodes were removed as is normally the case during complete axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). Results SAD was feasible in 75% of the 60 patients. SAD was completed successfully in 19 of the first 30 patients, and in 26 of the second 30 patients (p = 0.072). The median follow-up was 16 months (6-36), during which 9 patients developed a BCRL, 4 in group A (9%) and 5 in group B (33%); p = 0.035. None of the patients had nodal relapses during the follow-up. Conclusions Using a radioisotope enables an effective and safe SAD in a large proportion of patients. There was evidence of a trend to suggest a learning curve. The rate of BCRL after SAD was less than one third of the rate recorded after ALND, a result that should encourage the development of the former technique.
- Axillary reverse mapping
- Breast cancer
- Prevention of lymphoedema
- Selective axillary dissection
ASJC Scopus subject areas