• Recent developments in adjuvant treatment of soft tissue sarcomas of the extremities have altered the surgical approach to this disease. To assess the effects of changing management on local recurrence rates and to examine factors governing local failure, we reviewed the records of 315 adults with operable, nonmetastatic soft tissue sarcoma of the lower extremity who were treated at one institution over a ten-year period. The median follow-up was 8.2 years. One third of our patients presented with locally recurrent tumors after initial treatment elsewhere. Sixty-six percent of the lesions were above the knee, and 60% were high grade. Two thirds of the patients underwent limb-sparing surgery (LSS), which in the latter half of the study period outnumbered amputations by four to one. Local recurrence was directly related to the adequacy of the surgical margins. Adjuvant radiotherapy and chemotherapy did not significantly decrease local recurrence in patients who underwent LSS, although favorable trends were observed. A significantly increased risk of local failure was associated with age greater than 53 years, presentation with local recurrence, high tumor grade, deep location, positive nodes, and less than adequate surgical margins. Local failure also varied significantly with histologic type and was highest in patients with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma and neurofibrosarcoma. Improved local control, particularly in patients with high-grade tumors, was observed in the latter half of the study period despite the increased use of LSS. When the data were subjected to multivariate analysis, the following variables emerged as independent predictors of local failure: (1) age greater than 53 years, (2) presentation with local recurrence, (3) high grade, (4) less than adequate margins, (5) embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, and (6) neurofibrosarcoma. The key to local control of sarcomas of the extremities is resection of the tumor with adequate margins. The role of adjuvant treatment, particularly following LSS, is still being evaluated. The risk factor profile should be considered when selecting a treatment program for patients with lower extremity sarcomas.
(Arch Surg 1986;121:1425-1433)