• Lymphedema therapy program helps patients with swelling

    Lymphedema therapistsRome Memorial Hospital now has two certified therapists to provide comprehensive evaluation, treatment, and management of lymphedema.

    Occupational therapist, Kelly Edick, OTR/L, and physical therapist, Roger Paciello, PT, have received specialized training in this therapy which is used to reduce swelling and promote skin care for patients suffering from lymphedema. They received their formal training and certification from The Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy in Freehold, N.J., the premier institution for professionals to become certified lymphedema therapists.

    Lymphedema is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, an important part of the immune and circulatory systems. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and as the fluid builds up it causes swelling that generally occurs in one arm or one leg, but can affect more than one limb or body part.

    “Primary lymphedema is genetic and can be present at birth but more often will present symptoms at puberty,” explained Edick. “Secondary lymphedema may have many causes, such as cancer or cancer treatment, deep vein thrombosis, surgery or venous disease.

    The therapy program at Rome Memorial Hospital, known as Complete Decongestive Therapy, consists of four components designed to reduce swelling, maintain the reduction and improve quality of life. The therapy program includes:

    Skin Care: Skin inspection, cleansing and rehydration to maintain and improve the skin’s integrity.

    Manual Lymph Draining: A massage technique used to improve lymph flow and soften fibrotic tissues.

    Compression Bandages/Garments: Use of a series of short stretch bandages to prevent fluid from returning following massage. Custom garments provide support following completion of the program.

    Therapeutic Exercise: Improves flexibility, strength, and facilitates return of lymph fluids to system.

    “Lymphedema swelling will not decrease with elevation or medication,” Edick said. “Once you have lymphedema it is not reversible but it is manageable and treatable.”

    “As with any condition, early intervention is of utmost importance in achieving the best possible outcomes,” said Paciello.

    The key to successful treatment is compliance with the program, according to both Edick and Paciello. The compression garments become the patients “second skin” and they wear them 12-14 hours a day during the day. Compliance with these custom compression garments prevents the swelling from returning, and maintains the results of therapy.

    “It is important for patients to receive treatment on a daily basis during the intensive phase,” Edick said. “Therapy typically lasts 2-4 weeks, 5 days a week for 60/90 minute sessions. Lymphedema therapy can be very successful and limb reduction can be very dramatic, even in the first 24 hours.”

    “Treatment goals focus on improving patient function, skin integrity and appearance, and ultimately quality of life,” Paciello said.

    “We work closely with a patient’s physician and with our wound clinic if necessary,” Edick explained. “Therapy will help a person remain active in their daily lives as it reduces their limb size and greatly reduces the risk for developing infection, such as cellulites or fungus infections.”

    A physician’s prescription is required to make an appointment for Rome Memorial Hospital’s lymphedema therapy program. The two therapists can see up to six patients a day

    Lymphedema therapy is covered by most major medical insurance carriers, including Medicare and Medicaid. Extended payment plans are available to assist patients with their co-payments. Compression bandages are generally not covered by insurance plans.

    “Treatment for lymphedema is a commitment for better health,” Edick said. “It requires compliance and an understanding that treatment can greatly improve your quality of life.”

    For more information, contact the Therapy Department at 338-7154.