What are the possible complications of axillary dissection?

Updated: Mar 11, 2019
  • Author: Hemant Singhal, MD, MBBS, MBA, FRCS, FRCS(Edin), FRCSC; Chief Editor: Erik D Schraga, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

The patient may feel discomfort and soreness at the wound site, which is generally managed by taking mild analgesics.

A slight risk of wound infection exists after breast surgery, which may result in wound breakdown.

Hematoma generally develops within 24 hours after the operation. It is a very rare complication.

Patients may notice swelling of the wound site and bruising over the breast or axilla.

The observed rates of seroma after axillary surgery range from 2.5% to 51%. It may necessitate needle drainage on one or multiple occasions.

Shoulder stiffness is a temporary and self-limited side effect. Physiotherapy can be beneficial.

Lymphedema of the arm and breast constitutes a significant long-term sequelae to axillary dissection. This is minimized by limiting the dissection superior to the axillary vein. Studies of reverse axillary mapping may modify the approach to the axilla in the future.

A numb patch on the upper arm may be caused by division of intercostobrachial nerve.


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