Axillary “Exclusion”—A Successful Technique for Reducing Seroma Formation after Mastectomy and Axillary Dissection


Introduction: A seroma is the commonest complication of breast cancer surgery, and although its consequences most often cause no more than discomfort and anxiety, more important sequelae include flap necrosis and wound breakdown. Infection developing within seroma increases morbidity and often results in the need for re-admission, re-imaging, drainage and antibiotic usage. Numerous methods to reduce post-mastectomy seroma formation have been tried with no consistent success. Methods: 24 consecutive patients undergoing mastectomy and axillary clearance were recruited before and after a departmental change in practice. At the point of skin closure, patients either underwent “axillary exclusion” or not. Total drain outputs were recorded by community district nursing staff for all patients. At the first post-operative visit, the presence and severity of seroma was recorded. Results: 24 patients were included (study group 14, control group 10). Age, size of tumour, and number of positive lymph nodes and laterality were comparable between groups. Mean drain output for the entire group was 471 ml (3 - 1030 ml) over 5.21 days. The control group had a drain output of 763.5 ml (95%CI 674.2 - 852.8) while the study group had a mean drainage of 262.2 ml (95%CI 161.9 - 362.5), a reduction of over 65%, p < 0.001. 15 (62.5%) out of 24 patients developed seroma. 42.9% of the study group and 90% of the control group developed seroma, p < 0.01. Conclusion: Seromas are a common complication following mastectomy and axillary clearance. Our technique of axillary exclusion has resulted in significantly reduced drainage volumes and fewer seromas.

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Chand, N., Aertssen, A. and Royle, G. (2013) Axillary “Exclusion”—A Successful Technique for Reducing Seroma Formation after Mastectomy and Axillary Dissection. Advances in Breast Cancer Research, 2, 1-6. doi: 10.4236/abcr.2013.21001.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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