Lymphatic function in the early postoperative period of breast cancer has no short-term clinical impact

The purpose of this study was to evaluate by lymphoscintigraphy the lymphatic function in the preoperative period up to 2 months after surgery for breast cancer, and the relationship between the lymphatic function with clinical features and physical complications.

One hundred and five women were studied before and 2 months after surgery to treat breast cancer. On each occasion, inspection and palpation of surgical wound, upper limb circumference, and lymphoscintigraphy were performed. Lymphatic function analysis consisted of velocity of axillary lymph node (LN) visualization; intensity of LN uptake; collateral circulation; dermal backflow; and hepatic uptake.

In the postoperative period, there was a significant worsening of the degree of LN uptake (p = 0.0003) and in the velocity of LN visualization (p = 0.01). No significant differences in dermal backflow (p = 0.4) and collateral circulation (p = 0,07) were observed. There was a significant increase in liver absorption (p = 0.0002). 37.1% of the patients developed seroma, 11.2% dehiscence, and 25.8% infection. No relationship was found between lymphoscintigraphy changes and postoperative complications or clinical characteristics.

Lymphoscintigraphy, performed 60 days post surgery for breast cancer, can detect a worsening in lymphatic drainage and some sign of lymphatic changes. These changes are not related to clinical characteristics and physical complications.