There is increasing interest in the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of patients with chronic oedema. Studies in this area have tended to be exploratory and little work has examined the potential for HRQOL as a treatment outcome indicator in this context. This study aimed to ascertain whether or not conservative treatment for lymphoedema results in a measurable change in HRQOL, using the Nottingham Health Profile Part 1 (NHP-1) as the study instrument. Thirty-four patients participated. The patients received a range of conservative treatments. The participants completed the NHP-1 prior to treatment and 4 weeks after completion of the initial treatment phase. The overall post-treatment NHP-1 scores were significantly lower than the overall pre-treatment scores (z = 3.1 and p < 0.01), indicating an improvement in the HRQOL. The greatest change in a single dimension was in physical mobility (z = 2.3 and p < 0.05). The change in limb volume was not associated with a change in any NHP-1 subscale. A significant correlation was found between an improvement in skin condition and an improvement in scores on the 'pain' subscale (r = 0.53 and P < 0.01). It is concluded that the NHP-1 was useful in the assessment of the 'physical' domains of HRQOL in this context, but was less useful with regard to psychological and emotional domains.