Surgical management of groin lymphatic complications after arterial bypass surgery

Michele A. Shermak, Kristen Yee, Lesley Wong, Calvin E. Jones, James Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Background: The authors undertook a retrospective study to define the incidence of groin wound lymphatic complications at their institution and to review their experience with treatment of the complications. Methods: Operating room records and patient databases of the two primary vascular surgeons at an academic teaching institution were reviewed retrospectively. Groin lymphatic complications were diagnosed by clinical presentation and confirmed with noninvasive imaging. Surgical management included percutaneous methods, ligation of leaking lymphatics, excision, and/or muscle flap coverage. Results: From June of 1989 to June of 2002, 538 patients had arterial revascularization procedures involving the groin. Twenty-seven patients with groin wound lymphatic complications were identified; seven of them had bilateral complications, for a total of 34 complication sites. Common comorbidities included hypertension, coronary artery disease, chronic renal insufficiency, and tobacco use. The majority (85 percent) had artificial material in the bypass graft, and 10 patients had undergone a previous operation at the same site. The mean time to identification of groin lymphatic complications after vascular surgery was 14 days. Common presentations included swelling (n = 16), drainage (n = 13), erythema (n = 4), and leg edema (n = 1). At presentation, 17 patients (63 percent) were receiving antibiotics and 21 (78 percent) were receiving anticoagulation or antiplatelet therapy. Of the 34 complication sites, 12 were managed with drainage or excision and 22 with muscle flap surgery, 10 of which failed less aggressive therapy. Muscle flaps included the gracilis (n = 19), sartorius (n = 1), rectus abdominis (n = 1), and rectus femoris muscles (n = 1). Operative cultores were positive in 23 of the 34 groin lymphatic complication sites. A biopsy specimen of a healed gracilis flap obtained at 1 year demonstrated notable lymphatic channels, possibly supporting theories that rotated muscle becomes a lymphatic conduit. Conclusions: The authors found that muscle flap surgery provides single-intervention therapy for successful resolution of lymphoceles, with a low complication rate and fairly rapid recovery in a high-risk patient population. Flaps also salvage cases that have failed conservative therapy and provide hardy coverage for a wound bed that is often infected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1954-1962
Number of pages9
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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