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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.

MLD is both preventative and remedial and can enhance your well being. MLD:

  • Is deeply relaxing
  • Promotes the healing of fractures, sprains, torn ligaments and sprains, as well as lessens pain
  • Can improve many chronic conditions: sinusitus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, acne and other skin conditions
  • Can strengthen the immune system as part of “detox” treatment
  • Relieves fluid congestion including swollen ankles, tired puffy eyes and swollen legs due to pregnancy
  • Can be used to speed healing after cosmetic surgery
  • Is an effective component of the treatment and control of lymphoedema (which may occur after cancer treatment) and assists in conditions arising from venous insufficiency
  • Promotes the healing of wounds and burns
  • Can improve the appearance of old scars
  • Minimises or reduces stretch marks.

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 MLD 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.

The lymphoedema team are very happy to provide information on lymphoedema management, treatment and services including garment provision and taping. Our therapy rooms are based in the main building, ground floor or information leaflets can be found at physiotherapy reception and main building reception. Claire Burgess MLD Co-ordinator and Therapist is at Parkside Hospital on Tuesdays and Fridays or any MLD therapist in the main building ground floor (pink tunics) Monday-Friday for more information.