The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that transports lymph, a protein-rich fluid, back to the blood. Lymphedema is a chronic swelling disorder caused by an accumulation of this lymph fluid in the soft tissue. The buildup of stagnant fluid causes a mild to severe increase in limb girth, a decrease in tissue healing ability, and a high susceptibility to infections or cellulitis in the affected limb. Lymphedema most often occurs in the arm or leg, but can also occur in the face, neck, abdomen, or genitals. Primary lymphedema is the result of missing or impaired lymphatic vessels; symptoms may develop at birth or later in life. Secondary lymphedema, a much more common type, is a result of lymph vessel damage or lymph node removal during surgery or radiation therapy. It may also occur after injury, scarring, trauma, or infection of the lymphatic system.
Evaluation done by a Physical or Occupational Therapist includes:
Manual technique which reroutes lymph around blocked or damaged lymph nodes. This technique also reduces the susceptibility for infection, softens tissue, reduces edema, and improves the appearance and functional use of the extremity.
Short stretch bandages are used to prevent the re-accumulation of evacuated lymph fluid and to break up deposits of accumulated scar and connective tissue. During the active phase of treatment, the bandages stay in place until the next MLD session begins. During the maintenance phase of lymphedema therapy, the client is encouraged to wear the bandages while sleeping.
Patients may be taught a series of low exertion exercises and diaphragmatic breathing to stimulate lymphatic return. Training on skin care, infection recognition and response is also included.
Patients are instructed on application, wearing schedule, and care of their compression garments and self-MLD techniques for the maintenance phase of therapy. Patients are assisted in the purchase, care, and replacement of an appropriate compression garment.
The Lymphedema Therapists at Minnesota Vein Center are highly trained, certified professionals in lymphedema management. We look forward to demonstrating our care, compassion, and expertise as we partner with you to manage your lymphedema.