Lymphedema Management

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The Department of Rehabilitation Services at Newton-Wellesley Hospital offers treatment for lymphedema patients by qualified physical and occupational therapists certified in lymphedema management.

Lymphedema is a chronic but treatable condition, which may be congenital (present at birth) or may result from injury or trauma to the lymphatic system.

Treatment is covered by Medicare and all major insurers. A referral from a physician is necessary. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 617-243-6172.

Lymphedema Frequently Asked Questions

What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a potential complication following lymph node dissection or radiation resulting in swelling of a body part, usually an arm or a leg. Approximately 10-20 percent of breast cancer patients who undergo lymph node surgery and/or radiation will develop this chronic but treatable condition. It can also occur in patients who have undergone treatment for prostate, uterine, cervical, head and neck or other cancers. Lymphedema can occur soon after surgery/radiation but can also occur many years after a patient has completed their treatment. 

Lymphedema may also be a primary diagnosis in which congenital defects have occurred in the lymphatic system. Additionally, lymphedema may occur as the result of multiple traumas to a limb, such as infection, surgical procedures or fractures.

What are the goals of lymphedema treatment?

  • Decrease fluid volume in the affected limb
  • Improve function
  • Relieve pain
  • Improve body image and sense of well-being
  • Avoid potentially serious complications such as cellulitis

What is the treatment for lymphedema?
Depending on the degree of lymphedema present, treatment may include some or all of the following:

  • Manual lymph drainage
  • The use of multilayered bandages and/or compression garments
  • Skin care education and education regarding- lymphedema precautions
  • Instruction in managing lymphedema on a day-to-day basis at home
  • Exercises

Patients are seen one-on-one in treatment sessions that usually last about an hour. Emphasis is placed on providing the patient with the knowledge and ability to manage their lymphedema independently.

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