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Lymphedema and Lymphatic Disorders


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Lymphedema and lymphatic disorders refer to diseases that affect the lymphatic system — the network of tissues, vessels, and organs that move a specific fluid called lymph throughout the body. They occur when the lymphatic system is damaged or blocked, preventing lymph from circulating normally.

Left untreated, these disorders can cause pain, itching, swelling, and other complications such as skin infections.

Treatment for lymphedema and lymphatic disorders will depend on your diagnosis, stage of lymphedema, and related medical problems. Treatment may include manual lymphatic therapies, compression bandaging, therapeutic exercise, compression garments pneumatic pumps, dietary management, or surgery.

Conditions we treat

The most common lymphatic disease is lymphedema. It is swelling of a body part caused by a lymphatic fluid buildup in the tissues. Lymphedema most often occurs in the arms and legs, but it can also affect the head, chest, breast, abdomen, and genitals. Lymphedema occurs when a blocked or damaged lymphatic system causes fluid to build up in the limbs, and lymph can’t flow through the body as normal. Lymphedema is the most common lymphatic and venous disorder.

Depending on your diagnosis, you may require treatment from:

Lipedema causes excess fat to collect in the lower half of the body, primarily in the buttocks, thighs, and calves. It mainly affects women and typically runs in families.

Other lymphatic and venous disorders include:

Filariasis, Podoconiosis Page 1
Gorham’s Disease Page 1
Intestinal lymphangiectasia Page 1
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) Page 1
Lymphangiomatosis Page 1
Protein-losing Enteropathy (PLE) Page 1

Care and treatment of lymphatic disorders

Treatment for lymphatic disorders will depend on your diagnosis, but options include:

Complete decongestion therapy (CDT)
The University of Miami Health System has developed a specialized rehabilitation program to help patients with lymphedema. CDT includes a range of treatments designed to stimulate the flow of lymph, reduce the risk of infection, and decrease fluid buildup.

One type of CDT is manual lymph drainage (MLD). A gentle massage technique, MLD helps move the lymph fluid out of the swollen extremity, such as an arm or leg. A specialist then applies a short-stretch compression bandage to the affected limb to prevent the fluid from re-collecting. Our team of certified lymphatic specialists will help you develop a home lymphatic program, including therapuetic exercise, and choose the correct compression garments to maintain the reduction of arm and leg swelling.

Compressive garments/bandaging
Specialists apply short-stretch bandages to an affected area to provide pressure and reduce fluid buildup. 

Excision surgery
Also known as shave surgery, doctors may use this treatment to remove fibrous, or damaged, tissue caused by lymphedema.

A common type of cosmetic surgery called liposuction may be used to remove fat cells that can be stimulated to grow when fluid spreads into tissue.

Lymphovenous bypass
In this innovative treatment, specialized microsurgery techniques create a new path for lymph fluid to move through the body. This procedure helps reduce swelling, improve function and range of motion, and drain fluid more efficiently.

Pneumatic pumps
As a treatment for lymphedema, pneumatic pumps use air to inflate a sleeve that encases the affected area. The sleeve has multiple chambers that inflate one after the other to prompt fluid to flow in the right direction.

Vascularized lymph node transplant
In this advanced microsurgical treatment for lymphedema, a surgeon moves lymph nodes from one area of the body to an area where they have been removed. The newly placed lymph nodes help improve the flow of fluid and reduce swelling, tightness, and pain.

Why Choose Us?

The only comprehensive lymphedema program in South Florida. As one of only three lymphedema surgery programs in Florida, we offer innovative techniques to prevent and treat this condition. We take a collaborative approach to provide you individualized lymphedema care. Our cancer rehabilitation medicine specialists offer holistic care to improve your function and overall well-being. You won’t find this specialty care anywhere else in South Florida.

Fellowship-trained, highly-specialized surgeons. The plastic and reconstructive surgeons at the University of Miami Health System Lymphatic Surgery program have extensive fellowship training in microsurgery, the type of surgery required to treat lymphedema. 

Multidisciplinary care, all in one place. The Lymphatic Surgery team is part of the multidisciplinary care you can receive at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and UHealth. All of your physicians and providers, from your oncologist to your physical therapist, your surgeon to your dietitian, work together to improve your quality of life.

Teaching the next generation of health care providers. As an academic program, our physicians train the next generation of doctors and providers in many different specialties to offer high-quality care for lymphedema and lymphatic disorders. With more providers experienced in lymphedema care, patients can get the treatment they need, when they need it.

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