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The surgical treatment of upper limb sarcoma poses an oncological and reconstructive challenge. Limb-salvage surgery aims to balance adequate excision margins for disease control and preservation of all important structures to retain maximum function. Reported here is an assessment of the functional and oncological outcomes of limb salvage surgery for primary sarcoma of the upper limb and limb girdle in 72 patients referred to a specialist musculoskeletal tumour unit over 9 years. All patients underwent excision of the sarcoma with reconstruction and adjuvant treatment as needed. Functional outcome was assessed using the Toronto Extremity Salvage Score (TESS) after discharge from hospital. The upper limb sarcomas treated by limb-salvage surgery achieved planned margins of excision in 85% of cases with primary surgery. This increased to 100% with re-excision, resulting in local recurrence in 15% and survival of 75% among those at 5 years or more after surgery, while retaining good to excellent function (TESS mean of 87 out of 100). A total of 38 patients completed TESS questionnaires and, as a single group, had a mean TESS of 87. Patient age, anatomical site of tumour and adjuvant treatment made no significant difference to TESS. Liposarcomas had a significantly better TESS than leiomyosarcomas, chondrosarcomas and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours. Oncological outcome was assessed in terms of excision margins achieved, local recurrence, re-excision and disease-free survival. Eight patients died of disease, all with high-grade primary tumours. Fourteen had local recurrence, four low-grade disease and the remaining high-grade disease. All four low-grade recurrences were successfully re-excised, as were five of the high-grade recurrences. The remaining five died of disease, with or without further recurrences. Consistently good functional results as measured by TESS were reported by responders, but high-grade disease and early recurrence were identified as predictors of recurrence and death from disease, respectively.

Original publication




Journal article


J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg

Publication Date





382 - 387


Aged, Bone Neoplasms, Chemotherapy, Adjuvant, Disease-Free Survival, Female, Humans, Limb Salvage, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasm Recurrence, Local, Radiotherapy, Adjuvant, Reconstructive Surgical Procedures, Recovery of Function, Sarcoma, Soft Tissue Neoplasms, Treatment Outcome, Upper Extremity