Effect of Lymphaticovenous Anastomosis in Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema: A Review of the Literature

Lymphat Res Biol. 2018 Oct;16(5):426-434. doi: 10.1089/lrb.2017.0067. Epub 2018 Jan 22.


Background: Lymphedema affects ∼15% of all patients after breast cancer treatment. The aim of this review was to assess the clinical effects (improvement in arm circumference and quality of life) of lymphaticovenous anastomosis (LVA) in treating breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL).

Methods and results: A systematic literature search was conducted in Medline, Embase and the Cochrane Library in July 2017, to identify all studies on LVA for the treatment of BCRL. The primary outcome was limb volume or circumference reduction and the secondary outcome was the improvement of quality of life. The search yielded 686 results, of which 15 articles were included in this review. All studies reported on BCRL in terms of volume or circumference reduction. Thirteen out of the included studies reported a positive surgical effect on reduction in volume or circumference. Twelve articles mentioned qualitative measures, being symptom improvement and improvement in quality of life. The number of patients who experienced symptoms relief ranged from 50% to 100% in the studies.

Conclusions: The current review showed that the effects of LVA for the treatment of BCRL are variable among studies, although overall LVA seems effective in early stage BCRL. Higher quality studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of LVA.

Keywords: literature review; lymphaticovenous anastomosis; lymphaticovenous bypass; surgical treatment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anastomosis, Surgical* / methods
  • Breast Cancer Lymphedema / diagnosis
  • Breast Cancer Lymphedema / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Vessels / surgery*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Veins / surgery*