Lymphedema - Diagnosis

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How is lymphedema diagnosed?

A thorough medical history and physical examination are done to rule out other causes of limb swelling, such as edema due to congestive heart failure, kidney failure, blood clots, or other conditions. Often, the medical history of surgery or other conditions involving the lymph nodes will point to the cause and establish the diagnosis of lymphedema.

If the cause of swelling is not clear, other tests may be carried out to help determine the cause of limb swelling.

  • CT or MRI scans may be useful to help define lymph node architecture or to identify tumors or other abnormalities.
  • Lymphoscintigraphy is a test that involves injecting a tracer dye into lymph vessels and then observing the flow of fluid using imaging technologies. It can illustrate blockages in lymph flow.
  • Doppler ultrasound scans are sound wave tests used to evaluate blood flow, and can help identify a blood clot in the veins (deep venous thrombosis) that may be a cause of limb swelling.
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See what others are saying

Comment from: jobert, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: January 14

Basically I self-diagnosed. Swelling first appeared soon after 8 weeks of radiation, preceded by hysterectomy for stage 3 endometrial (uterine) cancer. I had researched online and suspected it, asked the radiologist, and requested physical therapy for lymphedema, I continued one additional round of chemotherapy after that. I have been in and out of physical therapy for two years.

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Comment from: FLAPEACH, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 11

I had a total knee replacement and developed lymphedema 3 weeks after surgery; leg infections, fever and swelling in the leg. I went to a vein specialist and he has heat-shrunk my veins in the leg that had damaged valves. I have started with the large mass of it in the area above the knee on the inside of my leg. I saw some mention of some massage techniques, and I would like to try that. We do not have an operation theatre here. I need to replace the other knee but am so afraid to do it. I don't want lymphedema in that leg also.

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