Risk factors associated with lymphedema after lymph node dissection in melanoma patients

Am J Surg. 2015 Dec;210(6):1178-84; discussion 1184. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2015.08.014. Epub 2015 Sep 28.


Background: Secondary lymphedema is a frequent complication after lymphadenectomy in melanoma patients, although few studies in melanoma adequately characterize risk factors for lymphedema, and of these, sample size is limited. This study aims to identify risk factors associated with the lymphedema after axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) and inguinal lymph node dissection (ILND) in a more robust cohort of melanoma patients.

Methods: We identified 269 ALND or ILND melanoma patients treated between 2008 and 2014. Demographic, clinical, and postoperative data were collected by review of the electronic medical record. Univariate and multivariate analysis were used to determine independent predictors of lymphedema.

Results: Fifty-six (20.8%) of the patients developed lymphedema after lymph node dissection with a median staging group of 3. ILND (odds ratio [OR] = 4.506, P < .001, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.289 to 8.869) and peripheral vascular disease (PVD; OR = 3.849, P = .020, 95% CI: 1.237 to 11.975) were significant predictors of lymphedema in multivariate analysis. Obese body mass index approached significance (OR = 1.802, P = .069, 95% CI: .955 to 3.399).

Conclusions: PVD and ILND were the 2 factors associated with the highest risk of lymphedema in melanoma surgery with PVD increasing risk 2-fold in ILND patients and 3-fold in ALND patients. These findings may improve surgeon-patient communication of care goals and surgical risk assessment.

Keywords: Lymph node dissection; Lymphedema; Melanoma; Risk factors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision*
  • Lymphedema / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*