• Soft tissue neoplasm;
  • sarcoma;
  • surgery


A total of 143 consecutive operations for soft tissue sarcoma of the extremity, performed by one surgeon over a 5-year period, was studied to determine the place of compartmental excision. The surgical aim was to achieve the nearest to radical surgery compatible with preservation of a functional limb. Of the operations, 73 were for previously untreated primary tumour and 70 for local recurrence. Two tumours arose in areas previously irradiated for other malignancies and 35 recurrences had occurred despite prior radiotherapy; of the 106 remaining cases, adjuvant radiotherapy was used for 79. Adjuvant chemotherapy was used only occasionally and was more often regional than systemic. For the majority of tumours, compartmentectomy was inappropriate or inadequate: 49 were extracompartmental in origin and 48 extended beyond their compartment of origin at the time of surgery. The remaining 46 were confined to one compartment; in only 21 of these 46 operations was a radical compartmental excision performed. Compartmental excision was more likely to be performed when the tumour was centrally located within a compartment, was so large that it replaced most of the muscle group, or was high grade or recurrent (particularly when adjuvant radiotherapy had already been used). The general preference was to combine less-than-radical surgery with adjuvant radiotherapy rather than sacrifice entire muscle groups or adjacent, functionally important, structures such as artery or nerve. This reflects the proven efficacy of radiotherapy in controlling microscopic disease. Overall, compartmental excision was considered appropriate in only 15per cent of operations.