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Lymphoedema and Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapy Services

Lymphoedema and Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapy Services

Some patients undergoing surgery or treatment for cancer are at risk of developing lymphoedema.

What is Lymphoedema?

If a lymph vessel or node becomes blocked, the lymph fluid is unable to pass along it. Because the excess tissue fluid cannot drain away normally, it builds up and causes swelling. The medical name for swelling is oedema. When the swelling is due to a problem in the lymph system, it is called lymphoedema.

Primary lymphoedema happens because the lymphatic system has not formed properly, but this is rare. It can also be caused by other medical conditions that affect the lymphatic system.

Secondary lymphoedema can be caused by cancer or its treatment. It can occur if the lymph nodes are blocked with cancer or if they have been removed by surgery. Radiotherapy can also cause lymphoedema by causing a build-up of scar tissue within the lymph nodes.

Not everyone who has radiotherapy or sugery to the lymph nodes will get lymphoedema. But everyone who has undergone these procedures is at risk of developing lymphoedema.

The Lymphoedema Service:

In Beacon Hospital, we have a Senior Physiotherapist who is a fully qualified and registered Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist. This Senior Physiotherapist can assess your risk of developing lymphoedema, assess the severity of lymphoedema if present and also provide necessary treatment. The aim of our service is to raise lymphoedema awareness and offer early intervention to prevent progression of symptoms.

The Assessment:

Limb volume measurements are taken and volume differences calculated. Skin condition is examined as well as limb function. Treatment goals are then agreed between the therapist and client.


Very often lymphoedema can be prevented and in some cases managed by abiding by simple “Do’s and Don’ts”. Your therapist will provide you with all necessary information on how to help prevent lymphoedema from occurring and what to do if you suspect you may be developing symptoms. Your therapist will also advise you on decongestive exercises and skin care. A compression garment will be provided when necessary. A specialist type of massage called Manual Lymphatic Drainage is an important part of treating lymphoedema.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a specialised form of skin massage provided by a trained therapist. It involves a sequence of hand movements which redirect excess fluid away from areas which are swollen towards areas with normal lymphatic drainage.

Intensive sessions will be arranged when appropriate.

Referral Process to this Service:

For best practice, we do suggest that patients obtain a referral letter from either a consultant or GP prior to arranging their first assessment. We will then be able to offer you a multidisciplinary approach to your treatment plan by communicating directly with your doctor and availing of other support centres in the hospital such as Beacon Cancer Support Centre.

Please contact us at the Beacon Physiotherapy Department – Phone 01-293 6692 and we can arrange an appointment for you and/or discuss any queries you may have.