Pankaj Tiwari MD
Michelle Coriddi MD
Susan Lamp BSN, RN, CPSN
Plastic Surgical Nursing
Volume 32 Number 4
Pages 173 - 177
The goal of this article was to define lymphedema as a disease entity, to introduce the American Lymphedema Framework Project, and to summarize current surgical strategies on the horizon in the surgical treatment of lymphedema.
Alongside the arterial and venous vasculature, the lymphatic system is a part of the circulatory system. Lymphatic channels primarily regulate the flow of fluid in the interstitium (Ellis, 2006). Under normal conditions, venous capillaries reabsorb 90% of the fluid in the tissues, and lymphatic channels absorb the remaining 10% of lymph fluid, proteins, and other molecules (Warren, Brorson, Borud, & Slavin, 2007). Lymphatic fluid passes to regional lymph node basins. Ultimately, the lymphatic fluid is transported back into the subclavian vein to enter the venous system via the thoracic duct.
Lymphedema is an external or internal manifestation of lymphatic insufficiency and deranged lymph transport (International Society of Lymphology, 2009). This insufficiency causes an accumulation of protein-rich interstitial fluid, leading to distention, proliferation of fatty tissue, and progressive fibrosis. Skin changes such as thickening and hair loss may occur. Progressive lymphedema without adequate management can lead to functional impairment, compromised quality of life, and deformity. Clinically, lymphedema is noted as swelling of the involved extremity. The head and neck, breast, or genitalia may also be affected (McWayne, & Heiney, 2005; Rockson, 2010; Smeltzer, & Stickler, 1985).