At the Lymphedema Center, our team of Certified Lymphedema Therapists (CLTs) treats disorders and issues caused by lymphatic obstruction. The CLTs, who have been extensively trained in the management of lymphedema, provide each patient with a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to his or her individual needs.
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is an accumulation of fluid in the body that causes chronic inflammation and hardening of the tissues. This edema, or swelling, can occur in the face, neck, arm(s), chest, leg(s) or trunk. It can occur due to an underdeveloped lymphatic system, known as Primary Lymphedema. It can also occur when lymph nodes have been removed or damaged due to surgery or trauma, known as Secondary Lymphedema.
How is Lymphedema Treated?
The primary mode of treatment for lymphedema is Complete Decongestive Therapy, which includes manual lymphatic drainage, multi-layered bandaging, meticulous skin care, exercise, and education in self-care management. Compression pumps may also be used in conjunction with these therapies.
At the Lymphedema Center, a physical therapist certified in lymphedema management will work with you to help develop a customized treatment program to enable you to manage your lymphedema and resume a normal lifestyle.
The following techniques are used to assist patients in regaining full function:
Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Manual lymphatic drainage is a technique that consists of a gentle skin stretch to improve absorption and movement of lymphatic fluid. Patients are educated on self-treatment techniques and encouraged to perform them daily for lymphedema management.
Patients may be wrapped with a series of short stretch bandages that can increase lymphatic flow and decrease lymph volume. These bandages work best with muscle contraction; therefore, it is important to perform movement and exercise with the bandages on throughout the day. Patients and caregivers will also be educated on bandaging. Once swelling has stabilized, patients are fitted for the appropriate compression garment(s).
Patients are fitted with a compression garment(s) in order to manage their lymphedema on a daily basis once the reduction in swelling has plateaued. There are many types of compression garments available. Each patient will be provided with individual recommendations based on their specific needs.
Patients are given a series of exercises to strengthen the muscles, to increase lymphatic circulation, to regain range of motion, and also to provide a gentle skin stretch. Aerobic activity may also be included to increase activity tolerance.
Meticulous Skin Care
Skin care is particularly important in the prevention of infection and to provide adequate skin hydration. Patients are educated about signs and symptoms of infection and instructed in methods of prevention and lymphedema risk-reduction for maintenance of healthy tissue.
Intermittent Compression Pumps
Compression pumps may be used in certain situations to facilitate swelling reduction and promote lymphedema volume reduction for self maintenance. Home pumps are considered for patients who respond well with a decrease in swelling.
Talk with your doctor about a referral to the Lymphedema Center if you experience swelling in the arms, legs, face, or neck due to a disorder of the lymphatic system, a venous insufficiency disorder, or surgery resulting in lymph node removal. It is also important to seek a referral if you experience other issues such as decreased mobility due to tightness or scar tissue or decreased function in your arm(s) or leg(s).
It is not uncommon to develop edema following a surgery that includes removal of lymph nodes. We recommend that patients seek a consult to see a Lymphedema Therapist after any surgery involving lymph node removal, for education in how best to prevent lymphedema.
The Lymphedema Center is located at the Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Center on the fourth floor of the Health Sciences Pavilion. Patients must be referred to the Lymphedema Center by a physician. Appointments may be scheduled by calling (443) 481-1140.