The incidence of symptomatic lower-extremity lymphedema following treatment of uterine corpus malignancies: a 12-year experience at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Gynecol Oncol. 2006 Nov;103(2):714-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2006.03.055. Epub 2006 Jun 5.


Objectives: To describe the incidence of symptomatic postoperative lower-extremity lymphedema in women treated for uterine corpus cancer, and to evaluate its relationship to regional lymph node removal and postoperative therapy.

Methods: A retrospective chart review of all patients with uterine corpus cancer managed over a 12-year period (1/93-12/04). All patients had a hysterectomy as part of their therapy. We identified patients with leg lymphedema - as described by the physician or reported by the patient - through medical records. We excluded cases of leg edema that developed secondary to medical conditions such as cardiovascular and renal disease, venous thrombosis, and end-stage recurrent malignancy. Lymphedema dermal changes and related fibrosis were graded using the common terminology criteria for adverse events.

Results: In all, 1,289 patients with uterine corpus malignancy were evaluated. We excluded other chronic lower-extremity edema that was related to a variety of medical conditions in 74 patients (5.7%). With a median follow-up of 3 years (interquartile range, 1.1-5.4 years), new symptomatic post-treatment lower-extremity lymphedema was noted in 16 patients. Patients who had lymph nodes removed at initial surgery had a higher rate of developing lymphedema (16/670, 2.4%) than those who did not (0/619, 0%) (P = 0.0001). Furthermore, symptomatic lymphedema was limited to patients who had 10 or more regional lymph nodes removed 16/469 (3.4%). Lymphedema was noted at a median of 5.3 months after surgery (range, 1-32 months). Lymphedema was unilateral in 11 patients (69%) and bilateral in 5 (31%); moreover, it was considered grade 1 in 12 patients (75%) and grade 2 in 4 (25%). Age, weight, stage, type of hysterectomy, and type of postoperative adjuvant therapy were not associated with lymphedema.

Conclusions: To date, this is the largest series evaluating symptomatic lower-extremity lymphedema in women with uterine corpus cancer. Patients who had 10 or more regional lymph nodes removed at initial surgery appeared to be at higher risk for developing new symptomatic leg lymphedema. Patients undergoing surgery with lymphadenectomy for uterine corpus malignancy should be informed about the possibility of postoperative new symptomatic leg lymphedema. A prospective evaluation of leg lymphedema is needed to accurately determine the incidence, severity, and risk factors of this complication.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy / adverse effects
  • Leg
  • Lymph Node Excision / adverse effects*
  • Lymphedema / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Uterine Neoplasms / surgery*