Zimmermann, A., Wozniewski, M., Szklarska, A., Lipowicz, A., & Szuba, A. (2012). Efficacy of manual lymphatic drainage in preventing secondary lymphedema after breast cancer surgery. Lymphology, 45(3), 103–112.
To evaluate effectiveness of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) for prevention of secondary lymphedema after breast cancer surgery
From the second post-operative day, women received a standard program of exercises. Thirty-three women were randomly chosen to also receive MLD five times a week for the first two weeks, then twice a week until six months after surgery. The other control group women applied self-drainage. Data were collected prior to surgery and at six months postoperatively. Arm volume measurements were done on days 2, 7, 14, and 3 and 6 months.
The study took place at a single outpatient site in Poland.
The patients were undergoing multiple phases of care.
The study used a prospective trial design.
Water displacement was used to measure arm volume.
Women in the MLD group showed a reduction of 14 ml volume (SD = 470 ml) on the operated-side arm over six months. Women in the control group showed an overall increase in arm volume of 16 ml (SD = 470, p = 0.0033). Analysis of variance showed significant effect of having MLD (p = 0001) and radiotherapy (p = 0.0499) on arm volume.
Findings showed that use of MLD may have some benefit for prevention of lymphedema secondary to breast cancer surgery. Several study limitations suggest that findings should be used with caution.
Findings of the study do not provide strong support for effectiveness of MLD to prevention lymphedema after breast surgery because of the multiple study design and results limitations.