Comprehensive Treatment for Lymphedema
Lymphedema is the swelling of tissue under the skin. There are many causes of lymphedema, including damage to your lymph nodes or as a side effect of cancer treatment.
Swelling can occur in your arms, legs or other parts of your body. Lymphedema may also be due to a mass or tumor pressing on your lymph nodes.
exercise, self-care and education. Lymphedema surgery is also an option for some patients.
Why Choose Us for Lymphedema Treatment
We combine classic lymphedema therapies, like exercise and compression bandaging, with cutting-edge surgical techniques in patients with lymphedema.
Our lymphedema therapists are certified in complete decongestive therapy (CDT).
Our treatment strategy helps prevent the lymphedema from progressing to a more advanced stage.
We can treat rarer types of lymphedemas like primary congenital lymphedema.
Who Benefits From Lymphedema Treatment
Patients who have the following types of lymphedema can benefit from the specialized treatment available at Keck Hospital of USC:
- Primary congenital lymphedema
- Secondary lymphedema
- Phlebo-lymphedema – A combination of chronic venous insufficiency, (a condition in which veins do not channel the flow of blood adequately) and lymphostasis (obstruction of the normal flow of lymph)
- Post-surgical lymphedema – For example following head and neck cancer surgery
- Lipo-lymphedema (a combination form of lymphedema in which fat — lipo — as well as lymph accumulates in tissue)
Comprehensive Diagnostic & Treatment Resources
Treatment of lymphedema is a combination of a non-invasive technique called manual lymph drainage (MLD), compression bandaging, exercise, self-care and education. The aim of treatment is to reduce swelling, provide pain relief, reduce the risk of infection, and prevent the lymphedema from progressing to a more advanced stage. Treatment is provided in two phases:
- Phase I: Intensive Phase
- Meticulous skin and nail care
- Manual lymph drainage (MLD)
- Compression bandaging and/or garments
- Therapeutic exercises
- Education in self-care techniques
- Education in lymphedema self-management
- Phase II: Maintenance Phase (you perform these activities independently)
- Putting on/taking off compression garment(s)
- Continued skin care
- Therapeutic exercises
- Self MLD
- Follow-up visits with lymphedema specialist to monitor your progress
Common Terms Used In Lymphedema Therapy
- Chronic venous insufficiency – A condition in which veins do not channel the flow of blood adequately. It is most often seen in the lower extremities (the legs).
- Compression bandaging/garments – Bandages and specially designed garments that provide pressure to a particular area of the body.
- Edema – An excessive accumulation of fluid.
- Fibrosis – Formation of scar-like tissue.
- Interstitial – Relating to or situated in the small, narrow spaces between tissues. The interstitium is where lymph accumulates in cases of lymphedema.
- Lymph – The almost colorless fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infection and disease.
- Lymphatic system – The tissues and organs that produce, store and carry white blood cells that fight infection and disease. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes and a network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells. These tubes branch, like blood vessels, into all the tissues of the body.
- Lymphostasis – Obstruction of the normal flow of lymph.
- Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) – A massage technique that uses a gentle pumping technique to stimulate the lymphatic system and improve lymph drainage.
- Pitting edema – When pressed by the fingertips, the affected area indents and holds the indentation.
- Sclerotic – Hardened; tissue that is sclerotic is tissue that has hardened.
Frequently Asked Questions
A: It depends on the stage of your lymphedema, your overall health and how you respond to treatment. Because each person is unique, there is no single answer that applies to every patient.
A: When a compression bandage is applied, it supports the tissues without “squeezing” when you are inactive. The stability of the bandage also resists stretching when pressure is applied through muscle contraction and joint movement. This soft “cast-like” environment prevents lymph fluid from “refilling” after drainage. Plus, the exercise regimen you are prescribed promotes further lymph removal. A compression garment liberates you from wearing bandages all the time and is an important, non-bulky part of daily home care.