Hwang, K.H., Jeong, H.J., Kim, G.C., & Sim, Y.J. (2013). Clinical effectiveness of complex decongestive physiotherapy for malignant lymphedema: A pilot study. Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine, 37, 396–402.doi: 10.5535/arm.2013.37.3.396
To evaluate the effect of complex decongestive physiotherapy on patients with malignant lymphedema, with regard to volume reduction and quality of life (QOL)
There is no comparison/control group. Patients received non-elastic compression therapy, remedial exercise, and skin care. Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) was not utilized.
The authors report a statistically significant difference in volume change in upper limbs (p = 0.001) and lower limbs (p = 0.001).
Components of complex decongestive physiotherapy (CDPT) are helpful in treating malignant lymphedema for pain and volume reduction, with positive impact on QOL. MLD was not utilized, based on conflicting reports regarding potential for spreading cancer. However, the authors state all components of the CDPT program, except MLD, are helpful when MLD was not utilized or controlled.
CDPT has a positive effect on QOL and limb volume reduction. This particular study did not utilize MLD, one of the main components of CDT. The reason given was that MLD could potentially spread cancer via the lymphatic channels; however, in fact, malignant lymphedema is a metastatic disease process.