Feature Article

Lymphoedema: optimising outcomes

Neil B Piller, Michael Eaton



Lymphoedema occurs when the lymph load is greater than the lymphatic transport capacity. Although not life-threatening, the swelling and associated symptoms can have a significant impact on quality of life and activities of daily living.

Key Points

  • Most cases of lymphoedema are secondary to surgery or radiotherapy, and take an average of three years to manifest.
  • Patient education is crucial to minimise the risk of lymphoedema developing or progressing.
  • Maintaining a focus on increasing the lymphatic transport capacity or reducing the lymphatic load improves the chance of a good treatment outcome.
  • Quality studies relevant to most aspects of lymphoedema including treatment are few; actions must be taken with this in mind.