A prospective clinical assessment of anatomic variability of the submental vascularized lymph node flap

Ming Huei Cheng*, Chia Yu Lin, Ketan M. Patel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

23 Scopus citations


Introduction: The vascularized submental lymph node (VSLN) flap has become a popular choice for the treatment of lymphedema. Despite its favorable characteristics, anatomic variability exists, making the harvest of this flap challenging. Knowledge and characterization of anatomic variability can aid the surgeon in safe and effective flap harvest. Methods: A prospective analysis of all patients who underwent VSLN flap transfer for lymphedema was performed. Demographics, operative details, and post-operative recovery were analyzed for included patients. Intraoperative videography and detailed anatomic drawings of each case were reviewed to accurately account for anatomic variability and details. Results: Forty-two patients were identified during the study period. Arteriovenous anatomic variability (A1–A2 and V1–V4) existed, with most patients having the artery and vein present superior to the submandibular gland (A1V1; 31%), with other combinations occurring less frequently. Flap harvest time was found to be significantly increased with an intraglandular arterial course (P < 0.01). Conclusions: The VSLN flap can be safely and effectively harvested with knowledge of arteriovenous anatomic variability. Most commonly, the artery and vein travel together superior to the submandibular gland, but other variations exist, which may add time to surgical flap harvest and increased need for dissection. J. Surg. Oncol. 2017;115:43–47.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-47
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Surgical Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 01 01 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • breast cancer related lymphedema
  • facial artery
  • lower extremity swelling
  • lymphatic reconstruction
  • lymphedema
  • submental anatomy
  • submental flap
  • vascularized lymph node transfer


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