St. Luke’s Hospital offers treatment for lymphedema

Published 12:09 am Monday, October 14, 2013

St. Luke’s Hospital provides a unique and successful treatment for patients who suffer with lymphedema, a build up of fluid in extremities causing pain and discomfort.

Patients suffering from lymphedema can receive some relief with Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) therapy through St. Luke’s Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation Services. Sarah Compton, physical therapist, completed MLD therapy training at Duke University Hospital, so that patients do not have to travel out of town to receive this treatment.

According to Compton, lymphedema is the build-up of protein-rich fluid. The lymph system is a complex network of nodes and ducts that helps maintain the balance of fluid in the body by filtering out waste products and defending the body against infection. When lymph nodes are removed by surgery, such as surgery for cancer treatment, or destroyed by injury, the normal flow of lymph is disrupted. A backup of fluids can occur in the tissue downstream from the missing lymph nodes, especially when there also is increased activity, infection or injury.

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This swelling is different from that caused by tissue damage, such as from a sprained ankle, and is not relieved by the use of diuretics, which cannot eliminate the protein build up. The build-up of fluid can be gradual and without pain and can occur over a period of time. Some people do not even realize that lymphedema is occurring until it reaches a critical stage.

MLD is a very gentle type of massage therapy used to drain excess fluid from the body and improve the overall functioning of the lymphatic (immune) system. MLD is combined with a program of compression bandaging, remedial exercise, and patient education for self-care after discharge.

To learn more, join Sarah Compton, physical therapist, for a free health talk, “Managing Lymphedema: What Is It and What Can We Do About It?” on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 2 – 4 p.m. in the library at St. Luke’s Hospital.

This is a free health talk, but spaces are limited. Call 828-894-2408 to register. Light refreshments will be served.

– article submitted by Jennifer Wilson