Tissue dielectric constant measures in women with and without clinical trunk lymphedema following breast cancer surgery: A 78-week longitudinal study

Linda A. Koehler, Harvey N. Mayrovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Following breast cancer surgery with lymph node removal, women are at risk of developing lymphedema in the upper extremity or trunk. Currently, trunk lymphedema diagnosis relies on a clinical assessment because no quantifiable standard method exists. Tissue dielectric constant (TDC) values are quantifiable measures of localized skin tissue water and may be able to detect trunk lymphedema. The goal of this study was to (1) compare parameters derived from TDC measurements with those derived from clinically accepted criteria for trunk lymphedema in women following breast cancer surgery and (2) explore the potential utility of TDC to detect trunk lymphedema early in its progression. Methods. This prospective longitudinal study, a secondary analysis from a larger study, observed women with and without clinically determined truncal lymphedema following breast cancer surgery. TDC was measured on the lateral trunk wall at post-surgery weeks 2, 4, 12, and 78 in women who had surgical breast cancer treatment with lymph node removal. Clinical assessment for trunk lymphedema was determined at 78 weeks by a lymphedema expert. Comparison of TDC measurements in women with and without clinical trunk lymphedema was analyzed. Results. Clinical assessment identified trunk lymphedema in 15 out of 32 women at 78 weeks. These women had TDC ratios statistically higher than women without truncal lymphedema. Conclusion. The overall findings indicate that TDC has the ability to quantify trunk lymphedema and might be valuable in early detection. Impact. TDC may be a beneficial tool in the early detection of breast cancer–related trunk lymphedema, which could trigger intervention. Lay Summary. A new device may help recognize trunk lymphedema in patients with breast cancer so they could receive appropriate treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1384-1392
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (K12HD055887); the Powell Center Fund for Women?s Health Advancement endowment at the University of Minnesota, administrated by the University of Minnesota Women?s Health Research Program; and in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH P30 CA77598) utilizing Masonic Cancer Center?s shared resources, University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Physical Therapy Association. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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