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Lymphedema (CDT) Care

Our rehabilitation department provides an evaluation and complete decongestive therapy (CDT) at SVH Women's Health. CDT includes manual lymph drainage, compression therapy with bandages, decongestive exercises done by the patient at home, education regarding skin and nail care, and assisting the patient to obtain compression garments for the involved extremity. Patients are typically seen five days per week for approximately two weeks, based on the severity of the lymphedema. Once the volume of the extremity is reduced during treatment, the compression garments are worn daily to prevent refilling with fluid.

For more information about this service, please call 207.487.9293.

What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the swelling of a body part due to an inability of the lymph system to adequately transport fluid out of an extremity. In simple terms, the amount of fluid has exceeded the transport capacity of the system. This usually occurs in the arms or legs, but may also occur in the trunk, face, or genitals. Lymphedema is classified as either primary or secondary:
  • Primary lymphedema is a condition typically caused by an underdeveloped lymph system.
  • Secondary lymphedema is a result of a mechanical insufficiency of the system, due to trauma, surgery, cancer or cancer treatment.

Signs that may potentially indicate the onset of lymphedema include:

  • Swelling in the extremity
  • Feeling of fullness or heaviness of the extremity
  • Thickening/hardening of the skin (fibrosclerotic changes)

Lymphedema is a disease that is managed but not cured. Early treatment interventions can prevent worsening skin conditions or development of chronic infections like cellulitis. Although medications are sometimes prescribed for fluid loss, they have limited long term control of lymphedema.

Persistent swelling should be evaluated by your provider.