I’m not a huge fan of transaxillary breast augmentation (TABA). One of the major selling points for the transaxillary approach is the lack of scars on the breasts. As a woman living in the south, my arm pits are much more likely to be seen in public than my breasts.
As a surgeon, I also know that when revisions need to be done (capsule issues, etc) most recommend using an inframammary approach so why not just start there. In my opinion, all women with implants will have a repeat surgery at some point in the future – implant failure (deflation, rupture) being a given.
I admit I had not thought about how the incision might interfere with future sentinel lymph node assessment prior to this article (full reference below).
Dr. Ana Claudia Weck Roxo, Rio de Janeiro State University, Brazil and colleagues conducted a small study to evaluate changes in axillary lymphatic drainage in patients who underwent TABA.
The authors share this information as to why this is important (bold emphasis is mine):
The sentinel lymph node is the first node in the lymphatic chain and the first to receive tumor cells via lymphatic drainage. Therefore, sentinel lymph node analysis allows physicians to predict the status of the lymphatic chain. The recent validation of the capacity of the sentinel lymph node to stage breast cancer patients and to help identify those who require axillary dissection has dramatically improved surgical treatment and reduced morbidity. Thus, sentinel lymph node biopsy has become an alternative to axillary dissection in patients with T1 and T2 breast cancer and is a gold standard for axillary staging because of its high sensitivity (84%-98%) and low false-negative rates (2%-8.8%). Nevertheless, it is contraindicated in patients with palpable axillary metastatic lesions, multicentric breast disease, previous mammary or axillary radiotherapy, and/or previous axillary or mammary procedures.
The prospective study enrolled 27 patients who underwent preoperative mammary lymphoscintigraphy, a subsequent TABA (using a subglandular placement of round, textured, high-profile silicone implants through a 4-cm incision at the anterior axillary fold), and postoperative lymphoscintigraphy at 21 days and six months after the procedure.
The postoperative imaging results examining the axillary lymphatic chain and the first axillary lymph node were analyzed and compared to the preoperative images.
None of the patients showed any changes between the preoperative and postoperative images at six months. Only one of the 27 patients (4.5%) demonstrated a lower rate of lymphatic drainage at 21 days postoperatively compared to preoperative values.
The sentinel lymph node remained visible in all patients at all time points, and all breasts showed drainage primarily to the axillary lymphatic chain.
Their data showed preservation of lymphatic drainage and visible sentinel lymph nodes even after transaxillary breast augmentation. I would love a larger study to confirm, but am pleased they looked at this.
Evaluation of the Effects of Transaxillary Breast Augmentation on Sentinel Lymph Node Integrity; Ana C Weck Roxo, Jose H Aboudib, Claudio C De Castro, Maria L De Abreu, and Margarida M Camões Orlando; Aesthetic Surgery Journal May 2011 31: 392-400, doi:10.1177/1090820X11404399