Background:With respect to survival and local disease control, the adequate extent of lymph node dissection for melanoma metastasis to the groin is controversial. Since the methods for accurate quantification of leg oedemas are not well standardised, it remains also unclear whether the iliac part of a radical ilioinguinal lymph node dissection contributes to postoperative lymphoedema.
Patients and Methods: Using a questionnaire and clinical examinations, we prospectively studied 65 persons for the presence of leg swellings (11 with inguinal lymph node dissection (sCLND), 23 with ilioinguinal dissection (rCLND), and 31 without nodal surgery and without signs of venous insufficiency). Exact volumetry of the legs was performed using the Image 3 D method.
Results: The mean interval between the lymphadenectomy and the examination for swellings was 24 ± 30 months. Compared with sCLND, the amount of postoperative drainage fluid was significantly higher after rCLND (1960 ± 1390 mL versus (vs.) 898 ± 578 mL). Patients with rCLND perceived more frequently leg swellings (83 % vs. 55 %, p = 0.09), however, also 23 % of the control persons perceived leg swellings. Clinical signs of swelling were found slightly more frequently in the rCLND group (52 % vs. 45 %). After rCLND, the gain in volume of the ipsilateral thigh was significantly higher than after sCLND (7.01 ± 4.83 % vs. 1.29 ± 6.12 %, p = 0.01). Patients with rCLND more frequently needed manual lymph drainage (70 % vs. 45 %). In the control persons, the volumes of the right (mostly dominant) and the left legs did not differ significantly.
Conclusions:Our results suggest that the iliac part of an ilioinguinal lymph node dissection significantly contributes to lymphoedema. Because of the multitude of reasons for swellings of the lower leg, volumetry of the thigh seems to be most adequate for quantifying the amount of postoperative lymphoedema.