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

Jeffrey F. Friedman, Bipin Sunkara, Jennifer S. Jehnsen, Allison Durham, Timothy Johnson, Mark S. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1178-1184
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Lymph node dissection
  • Lymphedema
  • Melanoma
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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