Spatial and Temporal Variability of Upper Extremity Edema Measures After Breast Cancer Surgery
Linda A. Koehler, PhD, PT,1,2 and Harvey N. Mayrovitz, PhD3,4. Lymphatic Research Biology 2018
Background: Tissue dielectric constant (TDC), as an index of local tissue water, and girth measurements are quantitative methods to measure and characterize lymphedema. Objective: To describe the spatial and temporal variability in arm girth and TDC values in women surgically treated for breast cancer and to describe the relationship between these measures.
Methods and Results: This was a prospective longitudinal study that observed 36 women for 78 weeks after breast cancer surgery with lymph node removal. Arm circumferences and TDC values, as indices of local tissue water, were measured on both arms at multiple sites at postsurgery weeks 2, 4, 12, and 78 in women undergoing surgical breast cancer treatment with one or more axillary lymph nodes removed. TDC and girth values remained relatively uniform from visit-to-visit for both at-risk and contralateral control arms with no overall statistically signiﬁcant difference in values (p>0.05). There was a strong inverse correlation between arm girth and the TDC value in both the at-risk and control arms (p<0.001). Overall, there was no statistically signiﬁcant difference in TDC interarm ratios among visits or anatomical sites. TDC values for at-risk and control arms tended to signiﬁcantly decrease with increasing distance from the wrist (p<0.001).
Conclusion: TDC arm values and girth measures remained relatively uniform in women after breast cancer surgery. The fact that TDC values are higher distally than proximally provides new information from which TDC measurements may be interpreted and also provides a better understanding of arm spatial variability in relation to girth measures.