Background: Postoperative lymphedema in breast cancer survivors is a serious complication that develops from axillary lymph node dissection (ALND), chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Axillary reverse mapping (ARM) was recently introduced to reduce lymphedema. This pilot study aimed to investigate the feasibility of preserving the ARM node using fluorescence imaging for patients at high risk of lymphedema. Methods: We prospectively screened patients with breast cancer who had pathologic node-positive disease at diagnosis and were scheduled for neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NCT). The sentinel lymph node (SLN) was identified using blue dye and radioisotope, while the ARM node was traced using indocyanine green (ICG). In cases in which SLN was negative on the intraoperative frozen section examination, the ARM node and lymphatics were preserved. Results: Of the 20 screened patients, six whose metastatic axillary lymph node (ALN) was converted to clinically node-negative disease after NCT were enrolled. No patients experienced recurrence at 24 months postoperative. Four patients who had a preserved ARM node did not develop lymphedema. One patient whose ARM node was not preserved due to SLN identification failure did not develop postoperative lymphedema. One patient who underwent ALND without ARM node conservation because of metastatic SLN on frozen section examination developed postoperative lymphedema. Conclusions: ARM is oncologically safe, decreases the incidence of postoperative lymphedema, and allows for the early detection of postoperative lymphedema in patients who underwent ALND. Ultimately, ARM may help improve the quality of life of patients with pathologic node-positive breast cancer.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Medical Illustration & Design, a part of the Medical Research Support Services of Yonsei University College of Medicine, for artistic support related to this work.
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