[Lymphedema: From diagnosis to treatment]

Rev Med Interne. 2017 Feb;38(2):97-105. doi: 10.1016/j.revmed.2016.07.005. Epub 2016 Aug 31.
[Article in French]


Lymphedema results from impaired lymphatic transport with increased limb volume. Lymphedema are divided in primary and secondary forms. Upper-limb lymphedema secondary to breast cancer treatment is the most frequent in France. Primary lymphedema is sporadic, rarely familial or associated with complex malformative or genetic disorders. Diagnosis of lymphedema is mainly clinical and lymphoscintigraphy is useful in primary form to assess precisely the lymphatic function of the two limbs. Erysipelas (cellulitis) is the main complication, but psychological or functional discomfort may occur throughout the course of lymphedema. Lipedema is the main differential diagnosis, defined as an abnormal accumulation of fat from hip to ankle. Lymphedema management is based on complete decongestive physiotherapy (multilayer low-stretch bandage, manual lymph drainage, skin care, exercises). The first phase of treatment leads to a reduction of lymphedema volume and the second phase stabilizes the volume. Multilayer low-stretch bandage and elastic compression is the cornerstone of the complete decongestive physiotherapy. Patient-education programs, including self-management, aim to improve patient autonomy.

Keywords: Bandages; Cancer; Low-stretch bandage; Lymphedema; Lymphoscintigraphie; Lymphoscintigraphy; Lymphœdème; Patient education; Primaire; Primary; Traitement; Treatment; Éducation thérapeutique.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bandages
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Extremities
  • France / epidemiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic System / physiology
  • Lymphedema / diagnosis*
  • Lymphedema / epidemiology
  • Lymphedema / etiology
  • Lymphedema / therapy*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Risk Factors