Axillary clearance of the lymph nodes, also called axillary dissection, is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of lymph nodes (an organ of the immune system) from the axilla (arm pit). The surgery is indicated for the prevention and treatment of cancer progression in breast cancer patients.
The surgery is performed under general anaesthesia. Your surgeon makes an incision in the region of the arm pit. The surrounding blood vessels, nerves and muscles are carefully moved aside and the lymph nodes are exposed. The lymph nodes are separated from the surrounding tissue and removed. A flexible silicone tube is inserted to drain fluid that may collect in the armpit. The incisions are closed with sutures or staples. The surgery takes about one and a half hour to complete.
As with all surgical procedures, axillary clearance of the lymph nodes may be associated with certain complications including infection, numbness of the arm, stiffness in the shoulder, lymphedema (swelling in the arm) and collection of fluid in the armpit.