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Lymphedema Management Services

Mercy Women's Center provides Lymphedema Management Services for women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer, as well as any patient with lymphedema resulting from other causes.


What is lymphedema?  

Lymphedema is the swelling of soft tissue resulting from the accumulation of lymphatic fluid. It is a serious condition, most often affecting the arms and legs, but can also occur in the neck, head, abdomen and genitalia.

What are the types of lymphedema?

Primary lymphedema is often an undetected genetic condition, and is due to inadequate or non-functional lymphatic nodes or vessels.  

Secondary lymphedema is triggered by an injury, causing blockage or interruption of the lymphatic vessels through removal of lymph nodes. In the U.S., secondary lymphedema is most often caused by surgery involving the lymph nodes, cancer, trauma and radiation therapy. Frequently, it is seen after surgery for cancer of the breast or pelvic area.

What are the symptoms of lymphedema?

  • Progressive swelling of soft tissue in the affected area 
  • Restricted, painful joint movement and limited mobility
  • Taut, dry skin over affected area
  • Tissue beneath skin becomes hard and fibrotic, impairing flow of blood and oxygen to affected area
  • Lymph fluid leaks through skin
  • Recurrent infections in a limb

What treatment is available?

Lymphedema can be effectively treated and controlled. Mercy's Lymphedema Management Services staff of highly-skilled, compassionate therapists is specially trained in Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), the most effective treatment for lymphedema. It involves:

  • Manual lymph drainage
  • Compression bandaging
  • Remedial exercise
  • Meticulous skin and nail care

Lymphedema Management Services is staffed by an occupational therapist and a physical therapist trained in the Vodder technique of manual lymphatic drainage. They received their training at Lerner Lymphedema Services Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This academy offers the only such program in the U.S. that is physician-taught. Lead instructor Robert Lerner, M.D., pioneered the use of complete decongestive therapy (CDT) for lymphedema. 

Most commercial health insurance plans and Medicare covers CDT, and a physician's referral is required. Patients can be seen at either location, the Mercy Health Plaza or Mercy Women's Center.

How can lymphedema be prevented?

Taking preventative steps in self-care can prevent lymphedema from developing, or keep it under control. See the National Lymphedema Network website for more information on lymphedema.


Schedule an Appointment

For more information about lymphedema, Lymphedema Management Services, or to make an appointment, call Mercy Rehabilitation Services at (319) 398-6020.