Rehabilitation & Therapy:
Trinity Health now has full support services for those patients dealing with lymphedema. Lymphedema is a result of protein rich fluid causing swelling to a body part, most often found in the extremities. It is progressive and if left untreated can lead to further problems. Lymphedema may be primary or secondary. Primary lymphedema is caused by congenital malformations. Secondary lymphedema is caused by the result of surgery or damage to lymph nodes. Severe venous insufficiencies may also cause lymphedema. Lymphedema typically affects one extremity; however, in some instances it can affect both. When both extremities are involved, the effect is usually asymmetrical. Worldwide there are 140-250 million people with lymphedema with the most common cause from a parasite called filariasis. The highest incidence in the United States is observed following breast cancer surgery.
Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), started in the 1980’s by Professor Michael Földi, MD, is the only effective treatment for lymphedema. CDT consists of skin care, manual lymphatic drainage, compression therapy, and decongestive exercise. Skin care is important in people with lymphedema due to the high risk for infection from usually dry skin. This is generally followed by manual lymphatic drainage. Manual lymphatic drainage is a very light massage that increases the activity of the lymphatic system. This helps to decrease swelling in the body part. Compression therapy is used after manual lymphatic drainage to prevent more accumulation of fluid into the body part by the use of compression bandaging and garments. Decongestive exercises are completed while patient is wearing compression bandages or garments to increase the activity of the lymphatic system. At this time, there is no cure for lymphedema and it can only be managed by CDT.
Aimee Clemens PT, DPT, CLT, Nicole Kutch OTR/L, CHT, CLT, and Amber Pankratz PT, CLT are certified in the management and treatment of lymphedema. Aimee Clemens PT, DPT, CLT is a graduate of University of Mary and has been a physical therapist for 5 years. She most recently became certified from the Academy of Lymphatic Studies for complete decongestive therapy in 2014.
Nicole Kutch OTR/L, CHT, CLT has 19 years of experience treating orthopedic hand and upper extremity patients. She recently obtained her Certification in Complete Lymphedema Therapy at Academy of Lymphatic Studies in 2014. Amber Pankratz PT, CLT is also a physical therapist and has also been certified by the Academy of Lymphatic Studies for complete decongestive therapy.