Lymphedema is a chronic, progressive and burdensome disease that is known to have a substantial impact on quality of life (QOL). Hence, the assessment of QOL is an important aspect of any study which seeks to evaluate outcomes after lymph reconstructive surgery. We therefore aimed to analyze currently available patient-reported outcome measurements (PROMS) for patients with lower limb lymphedema (LLL) with regard to their psychometric properties. Furthermore, we intended to evaluate the change in QOL in patient undergoing lymphovenous anastomosis (LVA) or vascularized lymph node transfer (VLNT).
A literature research of four databases on studies that included PROMS for LLL was conducted. All selected studies were assessed for validity according Consensus-based Standards for the selection of Health Measurement Instruments. Studies that used the Lymph Quality of Life Measure for Limb Lymphedema (LYMQOL) after LVA and/or VLNT were included for quantitative analysis.
In total, 988 studies were screened, of which 30 studies were included in this review. We identified six validated PROMS to assess LLL. Of those, the LYMQOL was the most commonly used questionnaire. Based on the LYMQOL, a significant improvement of QOL in LLL was noted in all studies after reconstructive lymph surgery (LVA/VLNT) regardless of lymphedema etiology, stage, or time since diagnosis. On the basis of the Consensus-based Standards for the selection of Health Measurement Instruments criteria, the Lymphoedema Functioning, Disability and Health Questionnaire for Lower Limb Lymphoedema seems to be superior in terms of its psychometric properties.
A significant improvement in the QOL in patients with LLL after reconstructive lymph surgery can be observed. Future studies on reconstructive lymph surgery need to include both objective and congruent volume measurements, as well as data on QOL based a well-validated PROM such as the Lymphoedema Functioning, Disability and Health Questionnaire for Lower Limb Lymphoedema.