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Lymphedema therapy

Lymphedema, a persistent accumulation of fluid in the arm or leg, afflicts many people, especially those who have been treated for cancer in the breast or groin areas. Left untreated, this often incapacitating condition poses a continuous risk of developing infections or other complications.

What causes lymphedema?

Some patients are born with lymphedema. Others develop it as a result of a medical condition:

  • Post-surgical procedures (ortho-medical)
  • Breast or groin cancer surgery
  • Head and neck cancer surgery 
  • Radiation therapy
  • Infection
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Venous/lymphatic insufficiency 
  • Venous stasis 

With proper education and diligent treatment, you can reduce the impact that lymphedema has on your day-to-day life. If you have questions, speak with your primary care physician and/or specialist about a referral today.

Via Christi lymphedema therapy uses proven treatment programs to help reduce the severity of your condition, decrease the possibility of infection and enhance your quality of life. 

Treating lymphedema 

After being referred by their physician, patients meet with specially trained Via Christi therapists for evaluation and a physical examination. A personalized treatment program is designed for each patient. 

Each treatment program lasts from two to four weeks and is based upon complex decongestive therapy, which consists of:

  • Manual lymphatic drainage
  • Compressional bandaging
  • Education, such as proper skin care and diet
  • Exercise
  • Compression garments (custom sleeves or stockings)
  • Self-manual lymphatic drainage
  • Self-bandaging
  • Spouse or caregiver participation 

Manual lymphatic drainage is a therapy which focuses on gently massaging the connective tissue. By stimulating the weakened lymphatic system, the stagnant fluid is pushed through the vessels. The venous system reabsorbs the fluid, while supporting the development of new collateral channels. 

Self-manual lymphatic drainiage is taught to the patient and/or caregiver as part of their home program.

Bandaging of the affected limb follows each lymphatic drainage session. These bandages are short-stretch and compensate for the diminished tissue pressure caused by lymphedema. Bandaging increases tissue pressure and prevents the affected limb from refilling with lymph fluid. 

Once the treatment program has been completed and the patient's condition has improved, the patient is measured for a compression garment. Compression garments are worn during waking hours, with bandaging apllied at night. 

Via Christi Rehabilitation Services provides lymphedema treatment at: