MUSC Advanced Breast Reconstruction program

Lymph Node Transfer

Vascular lymph node transfer is a fairly new microsurgical procedure that helps to reduce the chronic swelling and discomfort caused by lymph node removal during mastectomy. This technique involves transferring lymph nodes from the unaffected arm or the groin to the area under the affected arm. It can be performed as a stand-alone procedure or at the same time as natural tissue breast reconstruction, which also involves microsurgery.  When done with DIEP microsurgical reconstruction at MUSC, it only takes an extra 20 minutes.

After the procedure, patients will work with a lymphatic therapist to have arm measurements taken, learn appropriate exercises and undergo lymphatic massage as part of a larger strategy for controlling lymphedema symptoms. While lymph node transfer promises to reduce swelling and the feeling of heaviness or tightness in the affected arm, a complete “cure” of lymphedema is uncommon.

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