MedSchool: Ace Your OSCEsThe Medical Company
GET - On the App Store
Haem Exam

Axillary Lymphadenopathy



  • The axillary lymph nodes drain from the neck, chest wall, breast and upper limbs. Enlargement of these lymph nodes can suggest pathology affecting these regions or a systemic process that is infective, inflammatory or malignant.
    • How to Assess

    • Using the pulps of the fingers, gently palpate each of the lymph node groups within axillary region.
    • Feel For

    • Size - normally <10mm
    • Tenderness
    • Consistency - hard (metastasis), rubbery (lymphoma), soft (reactive)
    • Mobility - mobile or tethered to underlying structures
    • Causes of Lymphadenopathy

    • Bacterial infection - localised infection, skin infection, tuberculosis / MAC, syphilis, cat-scratch disease
    • Viral infection - EBV, CMV, HIV, herpez simplex, rubella
    • Parasitic infection - toxoplasmosis
    • Malignancy - lymphoma, leukaemia, metastasis
    • Inflammatory disorders - lupus, rheumatoid arthritis
    • Sarcoidosis
    • Medications - allopurinol, atenolol, cephalosporins, penicillin, phenytoin, carbemazepine
    • Storage disorders
    • Benign idiopathic lymphadenopathy

Axillary Lymph Nodes

  • Pectoral nodes - anteriorly, behind the pectoralis major muscleAnterolateral chest wall, central / lateral breast
  • Subscapular nodes - posteriorly, in front of the subscapularis musclePosterior neck and chest wall
  • Lateral nodes - lateral aspect of armpitMedial hand, forearm and arm
  • Central nodes - within the centre of the axillaDrainage from pectoral, subscapular and lateral nodes
  • Infraclavicular nodes - below the distal aspect of the clavicleLateral hand, forearm and arm
  • Apical nodes - medially, at the lateral border of the 1st ribDrainage from all axillary lymph nodes
Want more info like this?
  • Your electronic clinical medicine handbook
  • Guides to help pass your exams
  • Tools every medical student needs
  • Quick diagrams to have the answers, fast
  • Quizzes to test your knowledge
Sign Up Now