Sentinel lymph node biopsy and axillary dissection: added morbidity of the arm, shoulder and chest wall after mastectomy and reconstruction

Cancer J. Jul-Aug 2008;14(4):216-22. doi: 10.1097/PPO.0b013e31817fbe5e.


Axillary lymph node surgery is essential for the treatment of breast cancer but can produce both short-term and long-term morbidities, including lymphedema, shoulder restriction, numbness, weakness, and pain syndromes which impact on the quality of life of the estimated 2 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States today. They occur with both sentinel node biopsy and axillary dissection, though less frequently with the former. The incidence and etiology of these complications are investigated as are the risk factors, and methods of prevention and treatment. Recommendations for avoiding these morbidities for postoperative rehabilitation are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arm / physiopathology*
  • Axilla
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lymph Node Excision / adverse effects*
  • Lymphedema / etiology*
  • Lymphedema / therapy
  • Mammaplasty / adverse effects*
  • Mastectomy / adverse effects*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Quality of Life
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / adverse effects*
  • Shoulder / physiopathology*
  • Syndrome
  • Thoracic Wall / physiopathology*
  • Treatment Outcome