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Non-Cancer Related Lymphedema


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Non-cancer related lymphedema are diseases or conditions (not caused by cancer) 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, heaviness, swelling, and other complications such as skin infections.

Non-cancer related lymphedema can also be secondary to a disease or condition:

  • Severe venous insufficiencies (when the veins have trouble sending blood from your limbs back to your heart)
  • Surgeries to treat non-cancerous conditions
  • Lymphatic system infections or trauma
  • Obesity

It’s important that you seek treatment immediately if you think you are experiencing this condition, as it will not go away on its own. If left untreated, lymphedema can cause serious long-term consequences.

Non-Cancer Lymphedema Tests and Treatments

Physical exam
Your physician and therapist will conduct a thorough physical exam – as well as collect a full medical history – to make the diagnosis of lymphedema.

Imaging tests
Your specialist may recommend you undergo an imaging test – such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, Doppler ultrasound, and/or lymphoscintigraphy – to closely examine the area of your body affected by lymphedema.

Complete Decongestion Therapy (CDT)
Experts at Sylvester and the University of Miami Health System have 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 therapeutic 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
Doctors may use this treatment to remove fibrous, or damaged, tissue caused by lymphedema.

A common type of surgery called liposuction may be used to remove fat cells that can be stimulated to grow when fluid spreads into tissue from lymphedema. This can improve the function and the aesthetics of the limb.

Lymphovenous bypass
In this innovative treatment, specialized super 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 the body area affected with lymphedema. The newly placed lymph nodes help improve the flow of fluid and reduce swelling, tightness, and pain.

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