A patient- and assessor-blinded randomized controlled trial of axillary reverse mapping (ARM) in patients with early breast cancer

Martinus A. Beek*, Paul D. Gobardhan, Elisabeth G. Klompenhouwer, Marian B. Menke-Pluijmers, Pascal Steenvoorde, Jos W. S. Merkus, Harm J. T. Rutten, Adri C. Voogd, Ernest J. T. Luiten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) in breast cancer patients is infamous for its accompanying morbidity. Selective preservation of upper extremity lymphatic drainage and accompanying lymph nodes crossing the axillary basin - currently resected during a standard ALND - has been proposed as a valuable surgical refinement.

Methods: Peroperative Axillary Reversed Mapping (ARM) was used for selective preservation of upper extremity lymphatic drainage. A multicentre patient- and assessor-blinded randomized study was performed in clinical node negative, sentinel node positive early breast cancer patients. Patients were randomized to undergo either standard-ALND or ARM-ALND. Primary outcome was the presence of surgery-related lymphedema at six, 12 and 24 months post-operatively. Secondary outcomes included patient reported and objective signs and symptoms of lymphedema, pain, paraesthesia, numbness, loss of shoulder mobility, quality of life and axillary recurrence risk.

Results: No significant differences were found between both groups using the water displacement method with respect to measured lymphedema. ARM-ALND resulted in less reported complaints of lymphedema at six, 12 and 24 months postoperatively (p

Conclusions: In contrast to results of volumetric measurement, patient reported outcomes support selective sparing of the upper extremity lymphatic drainage using ARM as valuable surgical refinement in case of ALND in clinically node negative, sentinel node positive early breast cancer. If completion ALND in clinically node negative, sentinel node positive early breast cancer is considered, selective sparing of upper extremity axillary lymphatics by implementing ARM should be carried out in order to reduce morbidity. (C) 2019 Elsevier Ltd, BASO - The Association for Cancer Surgery, and the European Society of Surgical Oncology. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-64
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Surgical Oncology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Breast cancer
  • Axillary lymph node dissection
  • Lymphedema
  • Axillary reverse mapping

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