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Lymphoedema Service

What is Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a condition that affects the lymphatic system, which is a network of nodes and vessels throughout the entire body. Lymph nodes that have been damaged or removed (sometimes as a result of cancer treatment) cannot be replaced, and so the lymphatic drainage routes are reduced/altered. This can cause fluid to build up in the surrounding tissues, creating swelling, discomfort and a gradual change in the texture and feel of the affected area.

What treatment is available?

Complete decongestive therapy (CDT), also called complex decongestive therapy, is an intensive programme that combines many different treatment approaches including bandaging, compression garments, manual lymphatic drainage, exercise, and self-care.

CDT is considered the gold standard of treatment for lymphoedema that has progressed beyond stage 1 - meaning there is visible swelling without pitting (a temporary indentation forms on the skin when pressed) and there may be evidence of fibrosis (scarring of soft tissue).

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is an advanced therapy which requires a specialist therapist to apply a range of specialised and gentle techniques to move the skin in the direction of the lymph flow. This stimulates the vessels carrying the lymph.

Treatment includes one or more of the following:

  • Skin care

  • External support or compression in the form of elastic compression garments

  • A programme of exercise and movement - Hydrotherapy is particularly beneficial for reducing the swelling

  • Self-lymphatic drainage - This can be taught by the MLD therapist

  • Complex decongestive therapy (CDT) - This includes manual lymphatic drainage, multi-layer bandaging and intermittent sequential pneumatic compression therapy

What do we use it for at Parkside Hospital?

MLD is one of the corner stones of the CDT programme for the management of Lymphoedema here at Parkside Hospital, alongside with multi-layer lymphoedema bandaging, exercises, hydrotherapy and patient education.

It is the primary tool for the management of primary and secondary lymphoedema. We treat lymphoedema following breast surgery and we have also found it to be very beneficial to help reduce the swelling resulting from joint replacement surgery and lower limb trauma.


If you would like more information, please contact the Physiotherapy Department at Parkside Hospital either by e-mail or by phone 0208 971 8000 ext 8640

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