Immediate Implant Reconstruction Is Associated With a Reduced Risk of Lymphedema Compared to Mastectomy Alone: A Prospective Cohort Study

Ann Surg. 2016 Feb;263(2):399-405. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000001128.


Objective: We sought to determine the risk of lymphedema associated with immediate breast reconstruction compared to mastectomy alone.

Background: Immediate breast reconstruction is increasingly performed at the time of mastectomy. Few studies have examined whether breast reconstruction impacts development of lymphedema.

Methods: A total of 616 patients with breast cancer who underwent 891 mastectomies between 2005 and 2013 were prospectively screened for lymphedema at our institution, with 22.2 months' median follow-up. Mastectomies were categorized as immediate implant, immediate autologous, or no reconstruction. Arm measurements were performed preoperatively and during postoperative follow-up using a Perometer. Lymphedema was defined as 10% or more arm volume increase compared to preoperative. Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analyses were performed to determine lymphedema rates and risk factors.

Results: Of 891 mastectomies, 65% (580/891) had immediate implant, 11% (101/891) immediate autologous, and 24% (210/891) no reconstruction. The two-year cumulative incidence of lymphedema was as follows: 4.08% [95% confidence interval (CI): 2.59-6.41%] implant, 9.89% (95% CI: 4.98-19.1%) autologous, and 26.7% (95% CI: 20.4-34.4%) no reconstruction. By multivariate analysis, immediate implant [hazards ratio (HR): 0.352, P < 0.0001] but not autologous (HR: 0.706, P = 0.2151) reconstruction was associated with a significantly reduced risk of lymphedema compared to no reconstruction. Axillary lymph node dissection (P < 0.0001), higher body mass index (P < 0.0001), and greater number of nodes dissected (P = 0.0324) were associated with increased lymphedema risk.

Conclusions: This prospective study suggests that in patients for whom implant-based reconstruction is available, immediate implant reconstruction does not increase the risk of lymphedema compared to mastectomy alone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Implantation*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / surgery*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lymphedema / epidemiology
  • Lymphedema / etiology
  • Lymphedema / prevention & control*
  • Mastectomy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome