For Patients with Lymphedema

We have a lymphedema specialist in the Outpatient Ortho Occupational Therapy area, who is certified in the use of manual decongestive therapy. Since Kernan initiated the program, many patients have been successfully managed with this potentially debilitating and difficult to treat condition using the Vodder Technique. There is sufficient evidence in the professional literature to show this technique effective for treating lymphedema.

The National Lymphedema Association defines lymphedema as an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the interstitial tissue causing swelling of one or more extremities and or trunk and face. When uncontrolled, the swelling leads to tissue fibrosis, leaking of fluid through small openings in the skin, skin infections, and eventually open wounds involving the skin and the superficial layers of tissue below it. Swollen extremities can lead to limitations in joint mobility and ranges of difficulty performing self care and activities of daily living.

Prolonged lymphedema can be frustrating and embarrassing and lead to reluctance to participate and/or withdrawal from social situations. Lymphedema can be present at birth or may occur due to an insult to the lymphatic system such as from lymph node removal, radiation to the lymphatic channels or nodes, or from a lymphatic infection.

The management of lymphedema is quite different from the management of traumatic, post surgical, and dependent edema because of the nature and derivation of the swelling. More difficult to manage, the preferred techniques consist of the following:

  • Manual massage of the lymphatic channels in the direction of the various outlet channels;
  • Active and active-assistive exercises;
  • Functional training;
  • Wrapping the involved part and trunk or face with special gradient bandages;
  • Use of assistive/adaptive devices; and
  • Education on proper skin care/management.

Visits with the lymphedema specialist are daily for 1-2 hours over 4-6 weeks, then tapered to 2-3 visits a week for 2-3 weeks. Many insurance companies cover the cost of lymphedema management, but usually do not pay for the special gradient wraps. Our specialist is available to consult with physicians and therapists concerning the management of their in or outpatients with lymphedema, difficult to manage swelling, or to accept direct referrals to outpatient Occupational Therapy for lymphedema management

We have easy access to the building, with curbside drop-off and extra wheelchairs and scooters available for use at the front entrance. Please note that we require a physician’s referral and insurance authorization for this program.

For further information or to arrange an appointment, please call 410-448-6718.