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BACKGROUND: Adjuvant post-mastectomy radiotherapy (RT), which is often unpredicted, is known to increase complications following immediate breast reconstruction (IBR). AIM: To investigate the role of sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLN) in predicting RT and improving the choice of IBR. PATIENTS AND METHODS: All patients who had mastectomy and IBR between January 2004 and January 2007 were reviewed retrospectively. Axillary staging (clearance or SLN) was performed at the same time until October 2005 (Group 1), when the Unit's protocol was updated to perform SLN initially prior to mastectomy and IBR (Group 2). Patients in Group 2 with positive SLN were offered either a delayed reconstruction or a temporary subpectoral immediate tissue expander, while all options were offered if SLN was negative and in Group 1 patients. RESULTS: One hundred and thirty-nine patients were reviewed. 20 patients received unexpected RT in Group 1 (14 tissue expander, 4 Latissimus Dorsi flap with an implant and 2 DIEP flaps) compared to 11 patients in Group 2 who had a temporary tissue expander due to expected RT (P=0.03). Unexpected RT caused delayed complications in 14 patients (70%) compared to no delayed complications in patients who received expected RT in Group 2. CONCLUSION: SLN biopsy before IBR helps to predict RT and avoids its complications on breast reconstruction. Patients with positive SLN biopsy are best offered a temporary subpectoral tissue expander for IBR.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Surg

Publication Date





259 - 264


Breast Neoplasms, Chi-Square Distribution, Female, Humans, Mammaplasty, Mastectomy, Middle Aged, Postoperative Complications, Radiotherapy, Adjuvant, Retrospective Studies, Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy, Tissue Expansion Devices