Laparoscopic-assisted axillary dissection in breast cancer surgery

Am J Surg. 2005 Oct;190(4):641-3. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2005.06.031.


Background: Significant morbidity such as pain, paresthesia, and arm stiffness has often been associated with axillary dissection for breast cancer. We report our experience of 30 patients with stage I and II invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast who underwent laparoscopic-assisted axillary dissection together with segmental mastectomy.

Methods: Tumours were situated in the upper or lower lateral quadrants only. In all cases, initial exposure for axillary dissection was performed through the breast periareolar incision. A 10-mm 30 degrees laparoscope was introduced through the breast incision to gain entry to the axilla. A separate stab incision in the lower aspect of the axilla was used for introduction of the 5-mm Harmonic shears (Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc, Cincinnati, OH). A grasping forceps was introduced through the main incision alongside the endoscope. Subsequent axillary dissection was performed laparoscopically, and the axillary content was removed through the breast incision.

Results: Average yield of lymph nodes was 15 (range 7 to 25). There were no intraoperative complications. Immediately postsurgery, all patients were able to fully mobilize the upper limb, facilitated by absence of an axillary scar. Patients also reported minimal pain, paresthesia, with no stiffness or frozen shoulder.

Conclusion: Laparoscopic-assisted axillary dissection offers a safe and improved approach to the axilla, which can be incorporated into breast cancer surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy
  • Lymph Node Excision / methods*
  • Mastectomy
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging