“Inguinal” refers to the groin, that part of the body where the legs meet the lower abdomen. “Dissection” refers to the cutting and separating apart of tissue. Therefore inguinal lymph node dissection is the surgical removal of lymph nodes from the groin.
Other names for this procedure are groin dissection or lymphadenectomy.
Inguinal lymph nodes are lymph nodes located in the groin. Other lymph nodes are found in the armpits, neck, behind the ears, and under the chin.
All lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which includes lymph fluid, lymph vessels, bone marrow, and organs such as the thymus, adenoid, tonsil, and spleen. Lymphatic structures are part of the body’s immune system, making and transporting cells that fight against infections and other diseases.
Lymph nodes are small oval-shaped structures that produce disease-fighting cells, and also act as filters for lymph vessels, a network of thin tubes that collect and circulate lymph fluid throughout the body.
There is a chain of about 10 superficial (close to the surface of the skin) inguinal lymph nodes located in the upper inner thigh. These nodes drain into three to five deep inguinal lymph nodes in the connective tissue of the upper thigh. From there, lymph fluid drains into other lymph nodes in the pelvis.
Cancer cells may travel in lymph fluid from the point where a cancer starts into lymph nodes. In the case of inguinal lymph nodes, they may receive cells from cancers of the penis, vulva, anus, and the skin on the arms and trunk of the body. If inguinal lymph nodes become cancerous, they can then spread cancer to the pelvic lymph nodes they flow into.
In the early stages of cancer, inguinal lymph nodes cannot be felt by hand. If large lymph nodes or a lump in the groin are detected, this could be an indication of a more advanced stage of cancer.
Inguinal lymph node dissection is used to diagnose, treat, and prevent the spread of cancer to the inguinal lymph nodes, as follows:
The rate of complications following inguinal lymph node surgery can be quite high, with a direct correlation between the number and depth of the lymph nodes removed, and the occurrence of complications. The most common complications are:
Studies are being done to reduce the number of surgical complications, which mainly are the result of bleeding and fluid accumulation due to damage done to blood and lymph vessels at or near the surgical site. Efforts at improvement include identifying nodal disease as soon as possible so that treatment can begin before extensive surgery is needed; changes in surgical technique; increased efforts at preserving as much tissue as possible, and a move toward less invasive surgery.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 02/07/2017