Lymphedema Management

The Rehab Services Department of Wake Forest Baptist Health – Wilkes Medical Center has highly trained Therapists who can address your lymphedema needs. They offer a combination of treatments and modalities that include; manual lymph drainage, compression bandaging, exercises, and lymphapress. Each program is individualized to meet each patient’s needs.

The lymphatic system is a circulatory system that carries a thick, colorless fluid, which moves slowly through our bodies. The lymphatic system provides important immunological function to keep us healthy. Lymph nodes act as filtering stations. They produce white cells that battle infection and clean the lymph fluid, filtering out bacteria and waste before it can reach the blood stream. If the lymph nodes are damaged or removed, the lymph fluid collects and causes chronic inflammation, swelling, and scar tissue. This is called lymphedema.

Lymphedema can be caused by a congenital defect or can be a result of surgery, radiation, or disease. Lymphedema may also occur in combination with another disease. Persons who have had surgery for cancer, or cancer treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy are at a higher risk of developing lymphedema. Once the chronic swelling is present the progressive condition will not disappear without treatment. Men and women affected by this condition can experience a variety of problems including pain, impaired limb function, unsatisfactory appearance, and psychological or social issues. Since there is no cure for lymphedema, the goal of therapy is to reduce the swelling and to maintain reduction. The treatment option proven to be the most effective in controlling this disease is called, Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT).

Complete Decongestive Therapy has four key components including meticulous skin care, manual lymph drainage (MLD), compression bandaging and therapeutic exercise. Manual lymph drainage (MLD) is a gentle manual massage treatment technique that increases the activity of certain lymph vessels and manually moves interstitial fluid. Applied correctly, a series of MLD treatments decreases the volume of the affected extremity to a normal or near normal size. Successful management of lymphedema depends on a combination of treatments as well as good compliance by the patient. Each treatment protocol is tailored to the individual's needs and lifestyle.

Finding facilities that offer this treatment can be difficult. Thanks to financial assistance from the Wake Forest Baptist Health – Wilkes Medical Center Auxiliary and the Susan G. Komen Foundation the outpatient rehabilitation department of Wake Forest Baptist Health – Wilkes Medical Center now has two Certified Lymphedema Therapists (CLT) trained in CDT and able to provide this much needed service in a private and comfortable outpatient environment. For more information about the lymphedema management program, contact the outpatient rehabilitation department of Wake Forest Baptist Health – Wilkes Medical Center at
(336) 903-7894 or (336) 903-7850.

The department is located in West Park in North Wilkesboro

Contact Therapists:
Angela Powers OTR/L, CLT
Cristal McKinney COTA, CLT