Purpose: Axillary Web Syndrome (AWS) is a common sequela after surgical axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) often manifesting with reduced range of motion (ROM) of the limb, which requires rehabilitation. Notwithstanding, a standardized rehabilitation protocol is currently lacking in clinical practice. Our primary objective was therefore to evaluate the effectiveness of the use of a snapping manual maneuver (SMM, used in our clinical practice) to increase ROM during abduction (ABD) when compared with a standardized stretching exercise (SSE) protocol. A three-year follow-up of the enrolled patients was also carried out to determine the incidence of Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema (BCRL).
Materials and methods: Between July 2013 and January 2019, we conducted a single-blinded randomized clinical trial. A total of 60 patients, who underwent ALND in our hospital, came to our clinic under medical advice or on voluntary access and reported AWS symptoms. The patients were randomly assigned into two equally divided groups. The treatment of group one consists in the execution of a supervised SSEs protocol, while group two additionally received a manual snapping maneuver. Patients of both groups received two treatment sessions within two weeks. At the end of the session, they were asked to continue the exercises autonomously on a daily basis, three times per day, for one month.
Results: There were no statically significant differences in ROM at our one-month follow-up and the incidence of BCRL was equally distributed after three years.
Conclusions: The use of the manual snapping maneuver in addition to stretching once per week for two weeks does not appear to improve the outcome of the patients in comparison with stretching alone and does not appear to be related to lymphedema in our 3 years follow-up.
Keywords: Breast neoplasms; breast cancer lymphedema; physical therapy modalities; rehabilitation.