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Lymphedema Management

The Lymphedema Management Program at North Cypress Medical Center is based on the latest in complex decongestive therapy and uses a variety of treatment methods to reduce swelling and other symptoms of lymphedema. The program is staffed by licensed lymphedema therapists located in the Physical Therapy Department. The goal of the program is to improve the quality of life for patients suffering with lymphedema.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a chronic disorder characterized by persistent swelling in the arms, legs, face, neck abdomen or chest due to blocked lymph channels. Surgery, trauma, infection or radiation therapy can often damage the lymph system, leading to an accumulation of lymphatic fluid. This accumulation causes swelling, inflammation and disability. Lymphedema in the arms is commonly associated with breast cancer following surgical removal or radiation treatment of the lymph nodes. It can occur shortly after insult to the lymph system or many years later. Because the lymph nodes remove impurities from the circulatory system, damage to the lymph system affects the body's ability to fight infection, interfering with normal healing processes. When the lymph system is impaired, even minor scratches or cuts can lead to infection. Left untreated, lymphedema can be painful and may lead to irreversible complications.

Treating Lymphedema

Manual Lymph Drainage and Complete Decongestive Therapy (MLD/CDT) is the most effective treatment for lymphedema. MLD/CDT is non-invasive and has no adverse side effects.

Manual Lymph Drainage (Vodder Technique)

MLD is a gentle manual treatment technique, which improves the activity of the lymph vessels and in the case of lymphedema re-routes the lymph flow around the blocked areas into more centrally located lymph vessels that drain into the venous system.

Compression Therapy

Compression therapy increases the tissue pressure and is applied between treatments to prevent re-accumulation of evacuated lymph fluid. In phase one of the therapy this is achieved with the application of multi-layered short-stretch bandages. Self-wrapping or wrapping by a friend/family member is an important part of the home management component. In phase two this is carried out with the use of compression garments.

Exercises

Patients are instructed in a specific exercise program designed to promote lymph flow and drainage. These exercises are a component of the home program as well.

Education and Maintenance

Education and maintenance prevent exacerbation and complications of lymphedema. Infections, such as cellulitis attacks or fungal infections can be a serious complication in lymphedema. Teaching the patients meticulous skin and nail care is very important in guarding against infection and complications.

Treatment Options

An individualized treatment program is designed for each patient and adjusted according to several factors; the patient's goals, the extent of swelling/wound and fibrotic tissue, length of time the extremity has been swollen and the amount of time necessary for the patient or family member to become independent. For more information about The Lymphedema Management Program at North Cypress Medical Center, call us at 832-912-3540.

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