CDT for Edema Management

Jenna Rosenquist is an occupational therapist at Rehab4Life that is certified to treat patients with lymphedema or edema using Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). With Jenna's help, patients will decrease fluid volume in the affected extremity or body part, maintain reduction of fluid, prevent medical complications, improve skin condition, and improve mobility and quality of life.

What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the condition where an affected limb or body part develops increased swelling that is chronic is nature. Unless it is treated, lymphedema can continue to progress and get worse. The lymphatic system is supposed to transport cellular debris and protein fluid. When the lymphatic system is not functioning properly, the fluid accumulates in certain areas of the body. There are different causes for edema, and it is important to see your physician for accurate diagnosing and treatment options.

Diagnosing Lymphedema vs. Edema
Getting a physical exam and providing a clear history is very important to diagnosis. Early diagnosis is also very important with lymphedema, as it is a progressive condition and early treatment is most effective. See your physician if you notice any swelling. There are many different causes of swelling, not only lymphedema. Lymphedema can develop with other conditions that cause swelling as well. Other conditions that may cause swelling, which can benefit from edema management with discretion for your physician, can include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Traumatic Event (surgery, fracture, skin infection, burns, etc.)
  • Some Cancer and Cancer Treatments (most commonly breast cancer)
  • Disruptions in Kidney Function
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Vascular Disease
  • Lack of Mobility
  • Blood Clot

Why should I treat lymphedema or swelling?
With increased swelling, individuals are at an increased risk of complications that could lead to hospitalizations from skin infections or progressive swelling. Progressive swelling can affect one’s ability to walk, get dressed, and function normally from day to day. With proper and consistent treatment, these complications can be managed to live a comfortable lifestyle.

Treating Lymphedema and Edema with CDT
The most effective and comprehensive method for treating lymphedema is CDT. This treatment is an intensive therapy comprised of daily to every other day treatments that include two phases of delivery. The first phase is the intensive or reductive phase, and the second phase is the maintenance phase.

  • Reductive Phase – This includes active daily or every other day treatment with the patient coming into the clinic and receiving manual lymph drainage (MLD). MLD is a soft tissue mobilization technique (gentle massage) that helps to mobilize fluid for the body to re-absorb and get rid of through urination. The second component to the reductive phase is compression. Compression, with the use of bandages, provides gentle pressure to keep fluid from returning to the affected areas. Compression bandages are changed daily to every other day for most effective results. Every individuals is different, and course of treatment may not be the exact same for everyone depending on their needs.
  • Maintenance Phase – In this phase, the swelling has improved and the individual is instructed on self manual lymph drainage, exercises as indicated, skin care and the use of compression garments for daily wear. Patient education is an important aspect throughout the treatment. Follow up is also important to ensure that edema is being managed appropriately.