Axillary web syndrome after axillary dissection in breast cancer: a prospective study

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2009 Oct;117(3):625-30. doi: 10.1007/s10549-009-0371-8. Epub 2009 Mar 21.


The axillary web syndrome is a self-limiting and frequently overlooked cause of significant morbidity in the early post-operative period after breast cancer axillary surgery, which is characterized by axillary pain that runs down the medial arm, limited shoulder range of motion affecting mainly shoulder abduction, and cords of subcutaneous tissue extending from axilla into the medial arm, made visible or palpable and painful by shoulder abduction. We evaluated the incidence of axillary web syndrome after axillary lymph-node dissection. Altogether 116 patients who underwent axillary lymph-node dissection were assessed for axillary web syndrome. Range of shoulder abduction, pain, and the subjective feeling of tightness along the arm were recorded. Axillary web syndrome was found in 56 patients, which means an incidence of 48.3% (CI95%: 38.9, 57.7). Axillary web syndrome is a significant self-limited cause of morbidity of axillary surgery ocurring not only in the early post-operative period.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Axilla / pathology*
  • Axilla / surgery
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lymph Node Excision / adverse effects*
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Shoulder / pathology
  • Syndrome