Surgical procedures interfering with the draining nodes in the inguinal region carry the intrinsic risk of lymphatic complications. Lesions of the inguinal lymphatic network can lead to lymphocele or lymphocutaneous fistulas and can eventually be associated to limb lymphedema with consequent high morbidity.
This article describes a new surgical algorithm based on wound properties to properly address lymphatic complications of the inguinal area. Based on our experience, surgical solutions ranged from selective lymphatic vessel ligation to microsurgical lymphatic fistula treatment and free tissue transfer.
Fourteen consecutive patients underwent surgery in our department following failed attempts to address persistent lymphatic leaks. Patient characteristics such as smoking, previous surgeries, comorbidities, and wound properties were considered. Identification of the leak was performed using blue patent dye and indocyanine green fluorescence. Surgical reconstruction occurred, according to our algorithm.
Lymphatic leaks were visualized in 11 of 14 patients. Direct closure of the wound after leak ligation could be performed in 4 of 14 patients. Multilymphatic into vein anastomosis was performed in 3 of 14 patients, and the remaining patients benefited from flap surgery based on the wound defects. All 14 patients had successful outcomes (100%) with early drain removal (average, 6 [SD, 6] days) and definitive wound healing 2 weeks postoperatively. After a mean follow-up of 12 (SD, 2.9) months, no clinical infection, lymphatic complication, or wound breakdown occurred. One patient had a partial recurrence that did not require surgical intervention.
A stepwise approach, combining lymphatic surgery principles and plastic surgery flap techniques, can lead to an effective treatment algorithm where surgical options are wound tailored to guarantee the best functional outcomes.