Physiotherapeutic rehabilitation of lymphedema: state-of-the-art
Tzani I, Tsichlaki M, Zerva E, Papathanasiou G, Dimakakos E
Lymphatic diseases, especially lymphedema, represent a serious problem in the health community. We investigated strategies and methods for physiotherapeutic rehabilitation of lymphedema by carrying out a comprehensive search of the Medline and Embase databases from 1990 to 2016 to identify relevant published studies, articles, and reviews. Approaches for conservative management of lymphedema include the following: manual lymphatic drainage, lymphedema rehabilitation exercises, compression therapy, skin care, pneumatic compression, elevation of the extremities, thermal therapy, complete decongestive physiotherapy (CDT), taping, and aqua lymphatic therapy. Treatment of lymphedema with CDT, which is a combination of four methods (manual lymphatic drainage, lymphedema rehabilitation exercises, compression therapy, skin care), can achieve a 45-70% reduction in lymphedema volume. Prerequisites for successful physiotherapy are the availability of physicians, nurses and therapists who are specifically trained, educated, and experienced in each method. CDT is the most effective treatment as it reduces the symptoms of lymphedema and improves patients’ functionality, mobility, and quality of life. Although other therapeutic techniques have demonstrated positive results, these surveys are limited and more studies are needed to confirm findings.