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Annually, around 11,500 patients are treated surgically for breast cancer. In the past, 5-25% of these underwent an axillary dissection. This procedure can entail complications such as lymphoedema. Known risk factors are obesity and infections or wounds in the arm concerned. There is a traditional assumption that interventions on this arm, such as venepuncture, infusion or measurement of blood pressure, may induce lymphoedema.

This assumption has been queried in recent years. Based on our analysis of the current literature, we believe that the above-mentioned interventions after non-complicated axillary dissection do not increase the risk of lymphoedema or other complications. We recommend changing the policy that prohibits interventions such as venepuncture after axillary dissection.


van der Linden, R.L., van Bebber, I.P., Bosscha, K. and Bessems, M. (2015) No need to spare the arm after axillary dissection: the prohibition on interventions such as venepuncture is obsolete. Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Geneeskunde. 159(0):A9265..

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