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Phlebology. 2012 Oct;27(7):347-51. doi: 10.1258/phleb.2011.011044. Epub 2011 Dec 12.

Intensive decongestive treatment restores ability to work in patients with advanced forms of primary and secondary lower extremity lymphoedema.

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Department of General and Vascular Surgery, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poland.



To show that adequate therapy for lymphoedema is able to restore ability to work.


The population of patients with primary lymphoedema registered in the university clinical centre diagnosed with primary or secondary lymphoedema and presumed by the national social institution as completely unable to work was selected for the retrospective analysis and divided into two groups. Group 1 consisted of 25 patients treated with a complex decongestive therapy programme daily for 3-6 weeks. The study population comprised 19 women and six men from 14 to 61 years of age (mean 31.5). In all 25 patients, complete inability to work was certified by the social institution before the treatment started. Group 2 consisted of 47 patients, 14 men and 33 women, aged from 26 to 71 years (mean 39 years) treated by so-called standard methods, who resigned from the proposed intensive treatment. In all 47 patients, complete inability to work was declared by the social institution before the treatment. Ability to work and oedema reduction were assessed by the treating physician.


The intensive phase of treatment succeeded in 3870-15,330 mL oedema reduction in Group 1. After the end of therapy, 21 patients were able to work or study without any limitation and patients returned to their regular professional activity. Among four others, two were on welfare for at least 10 years, for another one welfare was their only income and one person was receiving a social pension. In none of the patients from group 2 was any significant oedema reduction observed. Every patient from group 2 maintained the social pension due to ineffective treatment.


Complex decongestive therapy is a very efficient form of treatment in advanced primary and secondary lymphoedema. It allows returning to work after a short period of temporary disability without the necessity of a social pension.

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