I am wondering how effective lymphedema treatment is - for Head and Neck Cancer patients. These patients often demonstrate submental edema after a neck dissection and/or radiation.
How many sessions with a physical therapist are recommended, prior to the patient performing the techniques independently? Thanks, Jodi Knott, MS CCC/SLP
Head and neck patients often develop facial/neck lymphedema resulting from lymph node dissections and also with treatment of radiation alone. The key to how effective the management will be is at what stage of swelling the patient is referred to our services, and what type of treatment did they undergo post operatively. If the edema is present for long periods of time the soft tissue becomes fibrotic which further decreases the ability of the lymph system to mobilize the fluids from the area. Radiation therapy causes soft tissue/fascial shortening which also effects how the lymph is drained through the area.
Normal course of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is ten to twelve visits. This also includes use of a compression device to help assist with increased tissue pressure to allow for the area to drain, lymphatic exercises and range of motion exercises , patient education in proper skin care and in avoidance of those activities or environments that may cause increased edema, and teaching the patient or family member how to do the home massage.
Janet Scheetz, PT