Many patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have their axillary lymph nodes removed.
One of the main roles of the lymphatic system is to assist in draining extra-cellular fluid to the thoracic duct and ultimately back into the blood stream. Therefore, when axillary lymph nodes are removed, there is risk of developing lymphodema (swelling) in the corresponding arm. This puts the arm at a greater risk of infection.
When a blood pressure cuff is applied to the arm, the pressure of the cuff may further inhibit the drainage of the extra-cellular fluid in the arm, further enhancing the risk of the patient developing lymphodema.
Therefore as a precuationary measure, it is not recommended to use a blood pressure cuff on the arm of the side effected by breast cancer.
It is also recommended that injections are not given, and blood not taken from the affected arm. This is because the removal of axillary lymph nodes results in a higher risk of infection in that arm.
Petrek JA, Pressman PI, Smith RA. Lymphedema: current issues in research and management. CA Cancer J Clin. 2000 Sep-Oct;50(5):292–307. quiz 308-211.
Loudon L, Petrek J. Lymphedema in women treated for breast cancer. Cancer Pract. 2000 Mar-Apr;8(2):65–71.
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