Archive for Friday, May 2, 2008

Occupational therapists gain certification

May 2, 2008

— Two occupational therapists at Providence Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., and St. John Hospital, Leavenworth, recently achieved national certification from the Lymphology Association of North America for treating patients with lymphedema.

Lindsay Gedney, an occupational therapist at Providence, and Laurie Steen, an occupational therapist at Providence and St. John, received the national certification after completing a 135-hour comprehensive course in complete decongestive therapy; documenting their experience for a minimum of one year following training; and passing an extensive examination in lymphedema management.

"By passing this examination, Laurie and Lindsay join an elite group of professionals throughout the United States who are certified by the Lymphology Association of North America," says Terry Jett, Orthopaedics and Neurology service line director. "Their commitment to excellence assures our patients they are receiving the highest standard of lymphedema care."

As many as 10 percent of all patients who undergo successful treatment for breast cancer or other types of tumors or trauma, end up with the chronic inflammatory condition called lymphedema, a swelling due to fluid build-up in any body part.

Lymphedema worsens over time if left untreated and is the result of a compromised lymph (fluid) system, often caused by surgery (including mastectomy/breast cancer surgery), radiation treatments, tumors or trauma. Lymphedema results in the abnormal accumulation of protein-enriched fluid (lymph fluid) throughout the body. The lymphatic system helps carry waste products out of the body and fight infection.

Sometimes lymphedema doesn't show up until years after the injury to the lymphatic system. In fact, it is easy to confuse typical swelling (due to a tear in a joint lining or injury) with the swelling that is caused by lymphedema. However, swelling related to lymphedema can recur and worsen over time. It also can increase the risk for infection of the affected body parts. Other patients may have chronic venous insufficiency, better known as poor circulation. This causes the legs to be chronically swollen. Sometimes elevating the legs can help, but over time, they may become more swollen and harder to touch, resulting in a chronic problem.

Symptoms of lymphedema include tightness, swelling or thickening anywhere in a limb, such as an arm or leg; a burning or tingling sensation radiating down the extremity; complaints of heaviness or aching of the extremity; inability to wear rings, jewelry or clothing because of swelling; and sometimes pain. It is important to note that lymphedema has no cure, but can be successfully managed with proper treatment.

Effectively treating lymphedema is hard work for both patient and therapist. Complete decongestive therapy, the method Steen and Gedney are trained in, is considered the "gold standard" of treatment. It typically requires daily sessions with a certified therapist for four to six weeks. Treatments include meticulous skin care,

compression garments, exercises and manual lymphatic drainage administered by a certified therapist. Because lymphedema is a chronic condition, patients may revisit therapy from time to time for a "tune up" to work on changing areas.

Complete decongestive therapy complements the Providence and St. John Oncology programs by helping cancer patients identify and manage this condition early on. In fact, the therapists work closely with the hospitals' Breast Cancer Support Group to provide assistance and information to persons diagnosed with lymphedema.

For more information about lymphedema treatment at Providence, call (913) 596-4750. At St. John, call (913) 680-6180.


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