Lymphedema may require special treatments called manual lymphatic drainage or lymphatic massage to move fluid out of the lower legs or arms. The manual compression dressing involves a long period of time with wrapping of the legs in special “short-stretch” elastic wraps. Lymphatic pump therapy is used to move lymphatic fluid from the legs back to the bloodstream in the chest by intermittent squeezing of the legs. Lymphatic pumps are used for patients who have severe lymphedema or untreated lymphedema over a long period of time.
Management of swelling of the legs often becomes a lifelong issue, but it is important because swelling will increase the risk of infection or leg ulcer and the underlying conditions may be associated with serious complications such as deep vein thrombosis or difficulty healing injuries or surgical incisions. Resolving lower extremity swelling, if possible, prior to extremity surgery is an important means of reducing the chances of wound healing complications including bleeding, hematoma, wound breakdown, or infection. Chronic swelling of the legs with discomfort or a heavy feeling to the legs often contributes to inactivity which worsens the problem since the calf muscle pumping of blood out of the legs with walking is an important means of getting venous blood back to the heart.