Shoulder arthroplasty in patients with upper extremity lymphedema may result in transient or permanent lymphedema worsening

Julia Lee, Ngoc Tram V. Nguyen, Dave Shukla, John W. Sperling, Robert H. Cofield, Joaquin Sanchez-Sotelo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introduction: Upper extremity lymphedema can complicate mastectomy, lymph node dissection, and radiation. The purpose of this study is to present the outcomes of shoulder arthroplasty in patients with lymphedema. Methods: The 19 shoulders with a shoulder arthroplasty and lymphedema on the surgical side (6 anatomic, 12 reverse, 1 hemiarthroplasty) were followed for four years (1–10 years). There were 2 males and 17 females; average age was 67.8 (48–86) years. Breast carcinoma was the most common reason for lymphedema (75%). A dedicated lymphedema questionnaire could be completed for 14 shoulders. Results: Pain improved from moderate or severe preoperatively to no or mild in 18 shoulders. Motion improved in elevation (55° preoperatively, 107° at last follow-up), external rotation (14°, 43°), and internal rotation (sacrum, L5). Complications included an acromion stress fracture with a deep infection (1), deep infection (1), superficial infection (1), and glenoid loosening (1). Lymphedema worsened in nine cases, but worsening was permanent in only four. Currently, lymphedema treatment is being performed by 93% of survey respondents. No patients reported lymphangitis or lymphangiosarcoma. Conclusion: Shoulder arthroplasty for an upper extremity with lymphedema provides substantial improvements in pain and motion; however, infection is a concerning complication. Fifty percent of the patients will experience worsening of their lymphedema and in 20% worsening may be permanent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-60
Number of pages8
JournalShoulder and Elbow
Issue number1_suppl
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • breast cancer
  • lymphedema
  • reverse total shoulder arthroplasty
  • shoulder
  • total shoulder arthroplasty
  • upper extremity lymphedema


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