Lymphedema – Combined Decongestive Therapy(CDT)

ADP Authorizer No:3000000784

What is the treatment of Lymphedema? | Goals for CDT Treatment

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema (external link) is a swelling of a body part, most often a leg or an arm, caused by the abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid. It can also occur in the face, neck, abdomen, groin and lung. This presenting conditions most often causes a feeling of heaviness, swelling of a limb or body part, discomfort and pain, repeated episodes of infection and thickening of the skin. As the condition progresses, affected areas can become hardened, there can also be leakage of lymph and normal functions can become restricted.

Secondary lymphedema is caused by an injury, scarring or removal of the lymph nodes. This usually occurs as a result of previous radiation and/or surgery of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, pelvis or groin. These treatments are commonly given for cancers of the head and neck, breast, uterus, bladder, ovary, prostate or testicle and for malignant melanomas and lymphomas. Occasionally, secondary lymphedema is caused by trauma to or chronic infections of the lymph system.

What is the treatment of Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a serious condition indicating that the lymph system is unable to handle the lymph load placed upon it. Lymphedema is a progressive condition, ideally treatment should  begin as soon as the problem is diagnosed or even as a preventative program after radiation or removal of lymph nodes to help prevent swelling from occurring.

The most effective form of treatment used by therapists in North America and Europe is Combined Decongestive Therapy (CDT). This includes:

  1. Manual Lymph Drainage – This is a specialized type of hands-on massage which stimulates and improves the functioning of the lymph vessel system. In addition to this, lymph can be re-routed into existing, alternate pathways to improve lymphatic return to the blood stream.
  2. Compression Therapy – This includes compression garments and/or specialized bandaging.
  3. Education – This includes basic information about the lymph vessel system, causes of lymphedema, self-massage and techniques for self-care, and instruction in the use of compression bandages and garments.
  4. Exercise – exercise recommendations and guidelines.
  5. Skin care – techniques and suggested products to keep skin healthy, to improve its condition or to deal with problems.
    Combined Decongestive Therapy has proven to be effective for Head & Neck Lymphedema. CDT is a specialized post-graduate training for health care professionals (135 hours).
Indications for CDT Referral for Head & Neck Lymphedema
  • Failure to heal wound sites
  • Swelling in neck, submental, facial, intra-oral areas
  • Pain on movement or due to increased pressure from swelling
  • Decreased function in tongue movement, swallowing, speech, or decreased function of muscles due to swelling
  • Impaired ADL due to limited neck and shoulder ROM & strength
Goals for CDT Treatment
  • Early treatment can minimize the progression of symptoms and functional limitations
  • Decongest the edematous areas with manual lymph drainage
  • Prevent the refilling of tissues
  • Minimize scar formation and breakdown fibrosis
  • Assist client to develop personal care plan
  • Empower client and family with long term management strategies
  • Co-create strategies to enhance QOL(Quality of Life)