Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (IPC): How do they work and what are the contraindications? Worldwide, the most widespread cause of secondary lymphedema is an infection with a thread-like worm named wucheria bancrofti, which leads to a condition known as filariasis. The highest incidence of secondary lymphedema in the United States is observed following surgery and radiation for malignancies, particularly among those individuals affected by breast cancer. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of malignancy among women in the United States.
Any type of surgery, specifically procedures that require the removal of lymph nodes, can cause the onset of lymphedema. Many individuals receive radiation therapy following the surgical procedure, which may aggravate the situation. The goal of these procedures is to eliminate the cancer cells and to save the patient’s life. Other surgeries, to include treatment of melanoma, cancer affecting the genitourinary and gynecologic systems, cancers in the head and neck region, or soft tissue malignancies, generally include the removal of lymph nodes with subsequent disruption of lymphatic pathways, which may cause the onset of lymphedema. Radiation therapy, specifically if combined with the surgical removal of lymph nodes, can cause scarring in soft tissue and inflammation of lymph nodes and lymph vessels, which may also contribute to the development of secondary lymphedema.
Less common causes for secondary lymphedema include surgeries other than for the treatment of malignancies, or trauma disrupting the flow of lymph. There is no consistency in the data on the incidence of lymphedema, and most statistics that are available are those on breast cancer related lymphedema (BCRL) affecting the upper extremities. It was reported that the five-year cumulative incidence of lymphedema following breast cancer surgery in women was 42%; of the affected women, 80% developed lymphedema within two years and 89% within three years (3). Patient education about the possibility of developing secondary lymphedema, discussion of the risk factors and risk reduction practices, combined with appropriate surveillance and prompt reporting of symptoms following cancer treatment, can limit the incidence and progression of secondary lymphedema.
A recent study (5) including patients who received treatment for breast cancer, determined that patients who received information about the possible onset of secondary lymphedema demonstrated significantly reduced symptoms when compared with patients who did not receive this information. The NLN’s position statement on risk reduction practices (6) serves as a valuable resource. Early treatment of secondary lymphedema by a qualified therapist is of paramount importance to limit progression of the swelling and to avoid complications often associated with untreated or incorrectly treated lymphedema. The treatment of choice for this condition is complete decongestive therapy (CDT), a combination of modalities including manual lymphatic drainage, the application of padded short-stretch bandages, use of compression garments, therapeutic exercise, and skin care.
Every time I read your most informative blog, it reminds me: what ever happened to the legislation that was in the works about two years ago, to pay for the various oppressive costs that accompany recommended therapies for lymphedema? Thank you very much for your dedication to informing us all and assisting our patient care skills. Can you do some writing on the post surgical secondary edema from lymph vessel disruption from routine orthopedic incision and resultant scar (e.g., posterior total hip approach) and from abdominal incisions? These days it seems I am constantly refocusing care towards scar tissue mobility and lymph drainage (decongestive therapy) after injury and surgery.
Then I went before a Medicare judge, and with the help of a wonderful lymphedema volunteer I received hose (custom made or not) from my insurance company with only 20% co-pay.
I’m still providing help in insurance and Medicare appeals to those wishing to fight the good fight. This is a tropical disease, endemic in more than 80 countries in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and South America, as well as in the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean. All women are at risk for developing breast cancer; males are also affected at a ratio of one male to 100 females (1). Surgical procedures in cancer therapy, such as breast conserving (lumpectomy) or more extensive breast surgery (mastectomy) commonly include the removal (dissection) of lymph nodes, with subsequent damage to lymph vessels.
Lymph vessels collect lymphatic fluid, which is composed of protein, water, fats, and waste products from cells. If the remaining lymph vessels that are unaffected by the surgery are not able to compensate for the damaged vessels, lymphatic fluid accumulates in the tissues.
Tumors growing in the soft tissues can become large enough to cause a physical block on lymphatic structures subsequently obstructing the normal flow of lymph. The average time of onset is between 14 and 24 months post-surgically, with an increased number of cases over time.
A study, which was published in 2001 (conducted by Petrek et al), followed 263 patients after mastectomy and complete axillary dissection.
Women who received information about lymphedema were significantly less likely to report heaviness in the extremity, arm swelling, impaired shoulder mobility, and breast swelling. Use the “Index” list on the left side of this page and select the article you are interested in.
How many persons can get the benefits of lymphedema therapists when no reimbursement is possible?
Depending on the extent and the quality of the scar, it can pose a significant blockage of normal lymphatic flow.
As fas my Lymphodema, I have had no surgeries, no treatment for cancer or anything I have seen in your blogs.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.3 billion individuals are threatened by the disease and over 120 million people are currently affected by it, with about 40 million individuals being disfigured by lymphedema and suffering from recurrent infections and other secondary conditions. With increasing age, the greater a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer with the majority of breast cancer cases occurring in women over 50 years of age. These vessels transport the fluid to the lymph nodes, where waste products and foreign materials are filtered out from the fluid. This accumulation of lymphatic fluid results in abnormal swelling, most commonly affecting the upper and lower extremities; however, other parts of the body may be affected as well. Some individuals may never experience any symptoms; however, the risk of development of secondary lymphedema lasts a life time. At 20 years after treatment, 49% reported lymphedema; of those, 77% noted onset within three years after surgery, and the remaining women developed lymphedema in the arm at a rate of almost 1% per year (4). You can also use the “Select Category” window on the right of this page and select the topic you are interested in. The effect of providing information about lymphedema on the cognitive and symptom outcomes of breast cancer survivors, Annals of Surgical Oncology, 17:1847-1853.
MLD is important in the early post-operative stage in order to decongest the area surrounding the scar. To read more about this condition, please refer to a previous entry on this site by clicking here. After passing several groups of lymph nodes, the lymph vessels return the fluid back to the blood. Once selected, a new page will load with a number of articles related to the topic you chose. The focus is to improve oxygenation and nutrition in this area by removing stagnant fluid, thereby decresing diffusion distance between the blood capillaries and the affected tissues. My Lymphodema started about 15 years ago when I was first informed I was a diabetic and the the doctor gave a pill called avandia to keep my blood sugars under control, well it did something else and made my retain fluid and have had this problem ever since.
Scar tissue tends to heal faster and the chance of adhesions and keloids is significantly reduced as well.

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