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Can I have a Fistula (for dialysis) put in the same arm that my lymph nodes were taken from?

Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2012

I had breast cancer of the right breast eight years ago. I had a Lumpectomy and three lympth nodes removed. There was cancer in one of them. I was told to Never have blood drawn, or blood pressure taken on my right arm again.

Now eight years later I am set up to have a Fistula put in my arm for dialysis. The surgeon wants to put it in my left arm which would mean that I have no arms available for blood work or blood pressure readings. He claimed that I can now start having that done in my right arm..... that I was only 'not suppose' to use the right arm "while it was healing". I told him I was "sure" they said not to use it for the rest of my life.

Now not only am I scared to death of the surgery but also am worried sick about letting them use my right arm in the future.....

I am going to call my Oncologist Monday morning to straighten this out but it is going to be a long weekend.....

Any thoughts would be appreciated!


New Flower
Posts: 4299
Joined: Aug 2009

I would do some research and ask surgeon what else /any other locations to put FISTULA ? Is it possible to use leg? Sorry I have not experience with it.

of course in life-threatening situations you can use your right arm, which has a risk of developing lymphedema.
Please keep asking and researching until you find a reasonable resolution.
Good luck and let us know
New Flower

Posts: 1191
Joined: Dec 2010

That surgeon is talking out of his butt. He obviously knows NOTHING about LE. You are at risk for LE in that arm for the rest of your life. LE can start at anytime. Have him look at the National Lymphedema Website,www.stepup-speakout.org,NCCN guidelines for Lymphedema or print the information out and hand it to him. If I was you, I would not let anyone put needles or bps in your arms. It is not just a swelling problem that makes LE dangerous, it is the damage it can do to tissues from the swelling and you are at higher risk for cellulitis. Of course, he doesn't care. He is not the one that will have to live with LE. AND THERE IS NO CURE FOR LE, ONLY TREATMENT.

As far as BPS and blood draw...those that had a BMX with bilateral node dissection can get blood draw from the foot (I get mine at the top of the foot where it bends) and I get blood pressures done on the lower calf. I am very adamant since I have mild LE in both arms and truncal LE.

That surgeon (and any other medial professionals) works FOR YOU. YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH. Some doctors/surgeons can be jerks about it, and it does help to have another doctor back you up.

It really burns me up (add a bunch of swear words here) that he is telling you outright lies. It is a shame how uneducated some doctors are.

There is a great Lymphedema Discussion Forum on breastcancer.org. There are a couple of ladies, Binney and Kira, who really know their stuff on LE and are national champions for LE for us. Kira, in fact, is a certified LE therapist who has LE herself.

Don't believe that surgeons lies about LE and it only making you at risk while you are healing. He needs someone to tell him he is talking lies and misinformation and putting patients at risk for LE. If he's doing it to you, he's doing it to someone else. He needs to be stopped (if his ego isn't too inflated).You have been lucky not to get LE so far...Why would you want to take a chance now. They told you NOT to get bp's or blood draws in that arm EVER. Listen to those that know.

If you don't have the courage to stand up for yourself, take us pink men and women with you. Use our strength to stand up to that man.

They take an oath, to do no harm. He is breaking that oath by telling you , and others that you don't have to worry about LE after you have healed. Man am I mad.

Posts: 4376
Joined: Jun 2009

Do not let them use that arm! They can use other places on your body for blood draws and blood pressure, like your leg and your foot. Your doctor is wrong!


Gabe N Abby Mom's picture
Gabe N Abby Mom
Posts: 2415
Joined: Sep 2010

Cinnamonsmile said it more adamantly than I would have, but yes your right side is at risk for LE for life. If the fistula is installed on the right, what would happen to if you developed LE on the right?

If your left arm is the only possible location for the fistula, then get orders from your doc for 'foot draws' when it comes to blood work. I have blood draws from my feet (I had a BMX) and BP done on my calf like Cinnamonsmile...I usually get the same phlebotomist and often get to 'cut' in line because of it. Once in a while, I have to 'teach' someone about taking BP on my leg...which cuff to use, where to place it. And my BP runs about 10 pts higher simply because the cuff is further from the heart.

I'm sorry you have to start dialysis...that doesn't sound like much fun. But I'm glad you came to us to ask your question. Please come back and let us know how you're doing.



Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2012

Thank you New Flower, Cinnamonsmile and Linda for responding to this question. I was beginning to doubt myself. I will definitely call my Oncologist Monday morning for answers. I guess it won't be the end of the world if I have to have blood draws and blood pressure done in my leg/foot...... Seems like the older I get (and the more I go through) the less tolerant I am to pain.

Hugs to each of you!


Posts: 1191
Joined: Dec 2010

I have had to have hand draws for years because of bad arm veins. The hand like they like best was crushed by a 700 lb bundle of metal by a faulty crane in factory years ago. The foot draw is no more painful than that. They will (or should) use a smaller butterfly needle. Some will change tubes right then and there, some will fill up a syringe and fill the bottles that way. Foot draws aren't that bad really.
Bps in the leg are no big deal either. Just make sure they have a portable digital one and the right size cuff. Some machines read the leg better than others. You will get used to it..

I hope your oncologist does the right thing and recommend that you get the fistula done in the noncancerous side arm. Hopefully, your onc doesn't think the same backwards way as the surgeon.

Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2012

Thanks for the encouragement cinnamonsmile. I am sure I will get thought this just fine. Am just going through a slump right now....

carkris's picture
Posts: 4554
Joined: Aug 2009

Iam bilateral and I have blood drawn from my old arm, thats also where I get BPs , so i am a bit more loosy goosy than others but i would definately not have a fistula placed

jnl's picture
Posts: 3873
Joined: May 2009

A big NO!

Pink Rose
Posts: 493
Joined: Nov 2012

If you let someone draw blood, put an iv in or take blood pressure in the arm that you had nodes taken from, you do run the risk of LE. So, don't let them do it. They can use other places on your body.

lynn1950's picture
Posts: 2574
Joined: Jun 2008

This does sound like an instance where you are going to have to stand up for yourself and educate that surgeon. It is YOUR body. I too have been told by my LE specialist that I am at risk for lymphedema for life. Good luck. Stand your ground. xoxoxo Lynn

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