Learning from a lymphedema clinic: An algorithm for the management of localized swelling

Evan S. Garfein, Loren J. Borud, Anne G. Warren, Sumner A. Slavin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Lymphedema is a chronic disease causing significant morbidity for affected patients. It can be difficult to diagnose, and patients are often frustrated by multiple referrals and inadequate therapies. Centralized, comprehensive care for the patient presenting with lymphedema or other causes of localized swelling allows for appropriate evaluation and provides improved management and treatment. METHODS: A 4-year review of the first 100 patients seen at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Lymphedema Clinic was performed. On the basis of the clinical experience from these patients, an algorithm for diagnosing and managing patients with localized swelling was developed. RESULTS: The mean age of the patients was 50 years, and 81 percent of the patients were women. On average, patients had experienced their symptoms for 11.6 years (range, 3 months to 60 years). Lymphoscintigraphy was performed on 43 patients, 81 percent of whom showed lymphatic obstruction or dysfunction. In total, 75 percent of patients were diagnosed with lymphedema based on clinical presentation or additional testing. Fourteen of these patients underwent subsequent excisional procedures, whereas the rest were managed conservatively with compression garments. CONCLUSIONS: Patients presenting with swollen extremities can frequently be diagnosed through history and physical examination alone, but many patients require more extensive diagnostic workup. An algorithm for the management of these patients can facilitate evaluation and treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-528
Number of pages8
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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