Insight Offers a Wide Range of Nonsurgical Care Options for Treating Lymphedema
Insight Comprehensive Therapy offers an extensive, personalized treatment program to help patients with lymphedema relieve symptoms and manage their condition. The following is a brief overview of lymphedema and some treatment options that have improved quality of life for our patients.
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema (also known as lymphatic obstruction) is an abnormal buildup of protein-rich fluid in any part of the body as a result of malfunction in the lymphatic system. Lymphatic vessels, which assist in fluid discharge, can become impaired as a result of the removal of lymph nodes, from chemotherapy, or from radiation treatments. When breast cancer-related lymphedema occurs, there is a swelling or change in tissue texture occuring in the arm and upper torso.
- Maintain proper hygiene
- Exercise regularly
- Take precaution with everyday activity
There’s no cure for lymphedema, but we can assist with symptom management. Treatment focuses on reducing swelling, scar appearance and adhesions, as well as preventing complications and increasing functional movements.
Lymphedema greatly increases the risk of skin infections (cellulitis). Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for you to keep on hand so that you can start taking them immediately once symptoms occur.
Surgical and Other Procedures
Surgical treatment for lymphedema may include:
- Lymph Node Transplant: Lymph nodes are taken from a different area of the body and then attached to the network of lymph vessels in the affected limb. Many people with early-stage lymphedema see good results from this surgery and can decrease the amount of compression needed.
- New Drainage Paths: Another option for early-stage lymphedema, this procedure creates new connections between the lymph network and blood vessels. The excess lymph fluid is then removed from the limb via blood vessels.
Removal of Fibrous Tissue: In severe lymphedema, the soft tissues in the limb become fibrous and hardened. Removing some of this hardened tissue, often through liposuction, can improve the limb’s function. In very severe cases, hardened tissue and skin may be removed with a scalpel.
Specialized lymphedema therapists can teach you about techniques and equipment that can help reduce lymphedema swelling. Examples include:
- Gentle contraction of the muscles in the arm or leg can help move the excess fluid of the swollen limb.
- Manual Lymph Drainage: Therapists trained in this massage-like technique use very light pressure to move the trapped fluid in the swollen limb toward an area with working lymph vessels. People should avoid manual lymph drainage if they have a skin infection, blood clots, or active cancer in the affected limb.
- Compression Bandages: Using low-stretch bandages to wrap the entire limb encourages lymph fluid to flow back toward the trunk of the body.
- Compression Garments: Close-fitting elastic sleeves or stockings can compress the arm or leg to encourage lymph fluid drainage. These garments often require a prescription to ensure the proper amount of compression is used. Patients may need to be measured by a professional to ensure proper fit.
- Sequential Pneumatic Compression: A sleeve worn over the affected arm or leg connects to a pump that intermittently inflates the sleeve, putting pressure on the limb moving lymph fluid away from the fingers or toes.
Common Areas of Practice
- Adults (all extremities)
- Breast Health
- Pre & Post – Mastectomy Care
- Post Lumpectomy
- Post Radiation Therapy
- Post Pelvic Surgery Lymphedema
- Post Groin Dissection Lymphedema
- Congenital (Milroy’s Lymphedema)
- Venous Insufficiency
Treatment Goals for Lymphedema, Breast Health, and Post Mastectomy Care
- Lymphedema self management and care: a personalized care plan, including therapeutic activity, compression, scar management, and manual lymphatic drainage
- Decrease the risk for infection or hospitalization
- Decrease pain with upper and/or lower extremity movement
- Increase upper and/or lower extremity movement and strength
- Decrease scar appearance and reduce adhesions
- Increase independence and participation in daily activities