Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Susan C. McMillan, Ph.D, ARNP.


Co-morbidities, Hypertension, Microcirculation, Secondary lymphedema, Evidence-based research


There is no evidenced-based research on prevention of upper extremity lymphedema following breast cancer treatment. General guidelines have been identified from a basic understanding of the lymphatic system and are considered to be prudent advice for prevention. Cause of lymphedema is hypothesized to be multifactorial and time of onset is widely varied. Exogenous risk factors leading to lymphedema are the removal and destruction of lymph nodes; however, not all women develop lymphedema following axillary lymph node dissection. Co-morbid conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are cited as possible endogenous risk factors. Several studies identify hypertension as a significance endogenous risk factor resulting in increased capillary filtration causing an increase in the fluid load on an already compromised lymph drainage system. This retrospective chart review was designed to compare systolic blood pressure in two matched groups to determine if there is a difference between groups. The study population included 147 stage II and III breast cancer patients. after receiving IRB approval, charts of patients with a diagnosis code of lymphedema (n=19) were identified from the 147 possible charts.

A matching sample of 18 women without lymphedema was assembled. Vital sign records were then reviewed and 3 measures of systolic blood pressure were used from a time period of two to 15 moths after lymph node dissection. Results revealed mean age and number of lymph nodes removed in the two groups were equivalent. No significant difference in systolic blood pressure was found between the two groups. However, the study was limited by the lack of chart data on the variables of lymphedema and systolic blood pressure. This pilot study pointed out adjustments needed to capture a more diverse sample. Other limitations such as missing demographic data on race, number of participants treated with radiation to the axilla and records of ambulatory blood pressure should be included in future studies.