Do medical procedures in the arm increase the risk of lymphoedema after axillary surgery? A review

Chris-Tin Cheng, Jessica Margaret Deitch, Ian Haines, David J Porter, Sharon L Kilbreath

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Lymphoedema of the arm is a potentially serious consequence of any axillary procedure performed during the management of breast cancer. In an attempt to reduce its incidence and severity, patients are instructed to avoid venepunctures and blood pressure measurements on the treated arm. These precautions are not possible in some patients and attempts to adhere to them can cause discomfort, anxiety and stress for both patients and their health-care workers. The strength with which these recommendations are made is in contrast to the level of evidence underpinning them. This paper reviews this evidence regarding the safety, or lack thereof, of blood pressure monitoring and intravenous puncture in women who have had axillary surgery. With this evidence generally being anecdotal in nature, there appears to be no rigorous evidence-based support for the risk-reduction behaviours of avoiding blood pressure monitoring and venepuncture in the affected arm in the prevention of lymphoedema after axillary procedure. A clinical trial was proposed to investigate whether such avoidance measures were valuable, but failed during its inception. There remains a need for research from prospective trials on this controversial topic to determine the most appropriate patient recommendations that should be provided after axillary procedure regarding the risks for development of lymphoedema.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510 - 514
Number of pages5
JournalANZ Journal of Surgery
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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