Lymphedema Management

Patient receiving lymphedema therapyLymphedema is an abnormal collection of high-protein fluid just beneath the skin. This swelling, or edema, occurs most commonly in the arm or leg, but also may occur in the breast or trunk, head and neck or genitals. Lymphedema usually develops when lymph vessels are damaged or lymph nodes are removed but can also be present when lymphatic vessels are missing or impaired due to a hereditary condition.

Our therapists are trained in complete decongestive therapy (CDT), a non-invasive treatment program consisting of four parts:

  • Manual lymph drainage (MLD) – A specialized massage technique to facilitate lymphatic flow within the body resulting in improved function and movement of the involved limb.
  • Compression bandaging – Low stretch bandages are used to create pressure that prevents fluid from returning to the affected limb. You and your caregivers are taught to apply these bandages independently.
  • Exercise – An exercise program is implemented to helps remove fluid from the limb while wearing the compressive bandages. You are also measured and fit for special compression garments.
  • Skin Care – Lymphedema patients are at high risk for infection, so proper skin care and nutrition are critical to success.

Lymphedema treatment runs five days a week for a period of two to six weeks. After initial therapy, all patients are reevaluated. A long-term course of treatment is determined in consultation with the physician. Lymphedema is a chronic condition that must be managed for life.