Background: The cornerstone of treatment in early-stage squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the vulva is surgery, predominantly consisting of wide local excision with elective uni- or bi-lateral inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy. This strategy is associated with a good prognosis, but also with impressive treatment-related morbidity. The aim of this study was to determine risk factors for the short-term (wound breakdown, infection and lymphocele) and long-term (lymphoedema and cellulitis/erysipelas) complications after groin surgery as part of the treatment of vulvar SCC.
Methods: Between January 1988 and June 2009, 164 consecutive patients underwent an inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy as part of their surgical treatment for vulvar SCC at the Department of Gynaecologic Oncology at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre. The clinical and histopathological data were retrospectively analysed.
Results: Multivariate analysis showed that older age, diabetes, 'en bloc' surgery and higher drain production on the last day of drain in situ gave a higher risk of developing short-term complications. Younger age and lymphocele gave higher risk of developing long-term complications. Higher number of lymph nodes dissected seems to protect against developing any long-term complications.
Conclusion: Our analysis shows that patient characteristics, extension of surgery and postoperative management influence short- and/or long-term complications after inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy in vulvar SCC patients. Further research of postoperative management is necessary to analyse possibilities to decrease the complication rate of inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy; although the sentinel lymph node procedure appears to be a promising technique, in 50% of the patients an inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy is still indicated.