Complex Decongestive Therapy for Secondary Lymphedema

November 2, 2012 | Evidence Reports


This report examines the use of complex decongestive therapy (CDT) for those with secondary lymphedema. CDT can also be used for primary lymphedema, but this condition is outside the scope of this report.

Complex decongestive therapy (CDT) is a noninvasive, multimodal therapy for secondary lymphedema that consists of manual lymphatic drainage, compression therapy, skin and nail care, and exercise. CDT is delivered in a two phase approach. Phase I (reductive phase) is typically delivered five days per week for three to eight weeks. Phase II is conducted by the patient or caregiver and usually continues indefinitely.

The National Lymphedema Network (NLN) recommends that therapists complete at least 135 hours of training. Additional training may be required for therapists treating facial, truncal, and genital lymphedema, or lymphedema in people with complex illnesses or disabilities. Medical professionals must provide verification...

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