Complex Decongestive Therapy in lymphedema: report from an Interdisciplinary Center


Submitted: 28 June 2023
Accepted: 9 August 2023
Published: 23 August 2023
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Lymphedema is a chronic and worsening disease due to an abnormal accumulation of liquids, with a high protein content in the interstitial space. The disease is characterized by an insufficient flow of lymphatic fluid, which manifests as edema, inflammation, and fibrosis, all the way up to the stiffening of the affected tissues. Because it’s a chronic and increasing disease, the treatment is highly complex. The literature shows that the treatment must be multidisciplinary, and it is necessary to combine multiple techniques, such as manual lymphatic drainage, mechanical lymphatic drainage, elasto-compressive bandages, and other complementary techniques up to surgical treatment in the most advanced forms which are not responsive to physical therapy. Furthermore, the disease is characterized by episodes of cellulitis, that may lead to infectious complications because the lymphatic function becomes insufficient. A condition of local immunodeficiency is created due to the crucial role that the lymphatic system covers with immune defenses, therefore creating a fertile ground for infections caused by small skin wounds, insect bites, animal scratches, nail fungus, and blood draws. Therefore, particular attention is paid to skin folds and interdigital spaces for which hygiene is necessary by using neutral detergents, drying by dabbing, and applying emollient creams for skin hydration. Unfortunately, such practices of prevention and care are often underestimated. We provide education to the patient on self-care, such as the self-bandage and the correct application of the elastocompressed stoking. For wrapping the bandage, it is advisable to wear a glove or a special sock. The multilayer bandages are used in the first decongestant phase, while over time, the elastic stocking is the best aid for the management of lymphedema. Our clinic is a referral center for diagnosis, treatment, and surgical therapy, where patients come for surgical evaluation. Since 2016, we have systematically collected clinical data and volume evaluation of more than 600 cases affected by lymphedema and lipoedema of all stages. They have been treated with complex decongestive therapy for 4 hours a day, 15 consecutive days, subsequently maintenance once a week for 3 months, then once a month for 6 months. Of more than 600 patients treated, only 150 were submitted to surgery (lymphatic venous anastomosis, fasciotomy or liposuction, chylothorax and chyloperitoneal shunt, reconstructive plastic of external genitalia). Complex decongestive interdisciplinary therapy, when properly performed, can stabilize the lymphedema patient situation, reducing the stage and ensuring a good quality of life.


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Eretta, C., Tridoni, E., Isaia, S., Pigoni, A., Vatteroni, A., Impieri, L., & Bianchi, C. (2023). Complex Decongestive Therapy in lymphedema: report from an Interdisciplinary Center. Veins and Lymphatics, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.4081/vl.2023.11551

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