After axillary surgery for breast cancer – is it safe to take blood samples or give intravenous infusions?


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Abstract

Aim.To investigate the occurrence of complications after a needle puncture or intravenous injection in the ipsilateral arm of women who have undergone axillary lymph node clearance for breast cancer.Background.After axillary lymph node clearance in patients with breast cancer, some women experience lymphoedema and recurrent infections. To reduce the risk of these postoperative complications, most women are advised to not have intravenous infusions in, or blood samples taken from, the arm in the operated side. Very little published data are available regarding the incidence of lymphoedema after intravenous procedures under clean conditions in the hospital setting. This study set out to investigate the occurrence of complications after a needle puncture or intravenous injection in the ipsilateral arm of women who have undergone axillary lymph node clearance for breast cancer is therefore important.Design.Descriptive.Methods.Self-reported questionnaire.Results.Most of the reported complications were minor, including itching, bruises and vomiting at the time of the intravenous procedure. The most serious complication was infection in one patient needing antibiotic treatment and subsequent arm swelling.Conclusions.This study indicates that if a blood sample is taken or intravenous injection is given according to the current Swedish guidelines for health care professionals, there should be a very low risk of complications.Relevance to clinical practice.If intravenous procedures are performed without any disadvantage in the arm of the operated side in women who have undergone axillary surgery, the clinical problem of finding a proper vein and the psychological concern of the women can be reduced.

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