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Click to read "I love my Caregivers" by Wanda

Surgery Precautions


Last week I had a surgical experience in the form of arthroscopic surgery on my left knee. This was about as far away from my right chest wall, where I have lymphedema as could be. Beforehand I informed everyone involved about my lymphedema and they all assured me that they were well aware of the precautions for lymphedema and would be alert not to use needles or blood pressure cuffs on my right arm. However, whenever I would ask whether they were using the bright pink lymphedema arm bands, I would get blank stares. No one seemed to have heard of such a thing. 

"So I brought my own bright pink armband (courtesy of Peninsula Medical Company) with me to the hospital and insisted on showing it around and wearing it. Everyone was impressed, but no one really knew what it meant – until they read it and frankly, not all personnel always took the time to  go around reading armbands before they act. Nonetheless, I managed to educate at least some folks along the way.

"Once the IV was started in my left arm (and I had informed at least 4 or 5 nurses about the LE in the preceding 5 or 10 minutes) another nurse came in and tried to put a blood pressure cuff on my right arm—despite all of my efforts to inform the staff, despite the notes on my chart, despite the pink armband, she briskly tried to place the blood pressure cuff. I did manage to stop her. She informed me that with in-patients they hang a lymphedema sign over their beds, but that with outpatients there was no such procedure in place.

"I had spinal anesthesia with no sedation (my choice entirely). So I was fully awake and alert before, during and after surgery. In the O.R. they were very good about protecting the arm. It was entirely wrapped, placed next to my body, strapped down and covered. No way anyone could have gotten to it if they wanted to.

"However, when they wheeled me into the recovery room the blood pressure cuff scenario was repeated. Again, they were very cooperative once I informed them, put the notes in my chart, the informing everyone I could in advance, the people who brought me in from the OR being fully aware, and the pink armband were all for naught in terms of stopping them from attempting to place the cuff on my at-risk arm. Had I been sedated I would have wound up with a BP cuff on that arm.

"While, it is now obvious to me that when hospitals do not have a policy or procedure, and when their personnel are not trained about the pink armband, just wearing the band isn't terribly effective. Despite this, I still think that taking the band along and educating as many people in the hospital to them as possible is a good idea. I’d do it again, if I needed any further surgery.

"I know from talking with friends in the medical business, that patient demands are frequently instrumental in changing the practice of medicine. However, if there is a next time, I will wear my pink armband and talk to everyone as before, but I will definitely also have someone write on my arm in permanent marker beforehand “Lymphedema, No Needles, No Blood Pressure this Arm” – maybe twice, once on the lower limb and once on the upper. They made me write on my knee before surgery to confirm which leg was the correct one – if I can go into surgery with writing that close to the surgery site, certainly I can write on my arm to protect it.

"I still think that trying to educate medical personnel to their meaning is worthwhile. I also recommend wearing an armband—or legband is a good idea. Also, it is best to request it before you have a need and keep in for future use if necessary.

"One other thing I’m going to do is request that they send a sample arm/leg band to each of the hospital administrators whose names I’ve been able to obtain. I’ve already written letters to those individuals. I mention this because others here might want to do the same."


If you do not already have one of these bracelets,take an appropriate precautions by visiting this website http://www.lymphedema.com/alertband.htm and requesting your ALERTBAND. It is through the kindness of these employees who send out these alertbands, and your precaution of requesting a band can make a big difference in your care and recovery!

Lymphedema Identification (courtesy of Peninsula Medical Inc.)

Got a question or comment? Post in the 'Living With Lymphedema' forum.
Category: Living With Lymphedema Updated: 2012-07-13


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