About Lymphedema

lymphedema treatment

There is currently no cure for lymphedema (LE). Untreated lymphedema can worsen, leading to debilitating pain and swelling, progressive hardening of affected tissues (fibrosis), and recurrent infections (cellulitis). LE can decrease mobility, dexterity, range of motion and the ability to perform daily activities. With effective treatment, however, patients can manage their symptoms, minimize infections, and improve their health and quality of life.

Compression Therapy

Compression therapy is well-established as a component of therapy. Compression of the limb may be applied in various ways including multi-layer bandaging, compression stockings, custom compression garments, and intermittent pneumatic compression devices. Barriers to effective compression, include an inability to apply bandages or compression stockings, and decreased tolerance to compression. A patient should be thoroughly evaluated to create an effective program to manage symptoms and prevent the progression of swelling.

Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT)

CDT is a multimodal treatment approach consisting of intensive in-clinic treatment provided by a certified lymphedema therapist, followed by an at-home treatment program. The focus of in-clinic CDT is to reduce limb volume and fibrosis and provide the patient with tools and knowledge to enable them to succeed with a lifelong successful home management program.

Components of in-clinic CDT may include:

  • Education on the lymphatic system, how lymphedema occurs, skin and nail care and other health precautions specific to the condition
  • Gradient compression bandaging
  • Manual lymphatic drainage therapy (MLD)
    • This key component of CDT employs a sequence of hand motions, consistent with established anatomic and physiological principles, which redirect fluid from congested and swollen areas to functioning lymphatic regions.
  • Intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) devices such as the Flexitouch and Entre systems
  • Development of a comprehensive at-home Program for effective self-management.

At-Home Self-Management

Ultimately, the patient and/or their caregiver(s) will be responsible for managing LE symptoms at home. Home treatment components should be customized to meet each patient’s needs and may include:

  • Compression garments
  • Gradient compression bandaging
  • Intermittent pneumatic compression device such as the Flexitouch system
  • Meticulous skin and nail care
  • Daily decongestive exercise

The Flexitouch system, an advanced intermittent pneumatic compression device (PCD) based on the physiologic principles of the lymphatic system, is the only PCD clinically proven to stimulate the lymphatic system. Flexitouch can be used in combination with other treatment components enabling patients to maintain reductions in limb volume between and after clinic visits.

Studies have demonstrated the clinical benefits of enhancing LE treatment with adjunctive PCD treatment to reduce limb volume. Lifelong at-home maintenance therapy with Flexitouch is intended to sustain improvements achieved during the initial intensive phase of CDT in order to limit the progression of the disease.

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lymphedema management

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