June 21, 2024
Lymphedema Treatment

Lymphedema Treatment: Understanding the Different Options Available

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a chronic condition caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s immune system. The lymphatic system helps fight infection and illness. It also plays a role in returning extracellular fluid to the bloodstream. When lymph vessels or nodes are damaged or removed due to cancer, injury, surgery, radiation or other causes, fluid builds up in tissues and causes swelling. This swelling is known as lymphedema.

Conservative Lymphedema Management

Conservative or non-surgical treatment options focus on manually draining lymph fluid to reduce swelling and prevent further fluid buildup. These include complete decongestive therapy (CDT), compression garments, exercise and skin care.

– Complete decongestive therapy (CDT): This intensive therapy includes manual lymphatic drainage, compression bandaging, skin care and remedial exercises. A therapist gently moves lymph fluid from blocked to functioning areas to help drainage. Compression helps move fluid up the limb. CDT is usually done daily for 2-6 weeks, then transition to compression garments is made.

– Compression garments: Specially fitted sleeves, stockings or wraps made of short-stretch materials like spandex or multilayered bandaging are used to apply graduated compression to affected limbs. This compression helps push lymph fluid upwards to allow drainage. Different levels of compression can be used depending on the situation.

– Exercise: Specific remedial exercises are done as part of CDT and at home to help lymph vessels and muscles pump lymph fluid in the right direction. Range-of-motion, stretching and strength exercises safely move limbs without causing further swelling.

– Skin and nail care: Daily moisturizing, exfoliation, protection of injured areas and foot/hand inspections help prevent infection which can worsen Lymphedema Treatment . Fungal nail infections are also treated.

Surgical Lymphedema Treatment

For those with severe, disabling lymphedema that has not responded well to conservative options, various surgeries may be considered after discussing risks and benefits with a lymphatic specialist.

– Lymphaticovenular anastomosis (LVA): This microsurgery connects functioning lymphatic vessels to small veins to create an alternative drainage pathway for lymph fluid to bypass blocked areas. Multiple small incisions are made.

– Lymph node transfer: Lymph nodes from other body areas are transplanted to the affected limb during surgery. This introduces nodes that can take over drainage functions.

– Debulking procedures: Liposuction or lipotransfer techniques use suction or cautery devices through small incisions to remove excess fat deposits and reduce swelling in severe cases. Tissue and fluid samples are analyzed.

– Vessel transplants: Sections of healthy lymph or blood vessels from other body areas are surgically connected to improve drainage in the affected limb. This requires donor vessel harvesting.

– Complex decongestive physiotheRapy (CDP): For those who don’t qualify for or don’t want surgery, CDP combines CDT with taping or compressions techniques using multiple layers of material.

Choosing a Lymphedema Treatment Plan

It’s important for patients to work closely with their doctor and specialized lymphedema therapists to determine the best treatment approach. Factors like location and severity of lymphedema, risk of infection or injury, and individual response must all be considered. Most treatment will involve multimodal or “combination” approaches that address lymphedema through different conservative and/or surgical avenues depending on the situation. Following all care instructions carefully at home is also critical for long-term management success. With diligent self-care and therapy, lymphedema is very manageable

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it