Management of lower limb lymphoedema in the United Kingdom.

European journal of vascular and endovascular surgery : the official journal of the European Society for Vascular Surgery

PubMedID: 16324854

Tiwari A, Myint F, Hamilton G. Management of lower limb lymphoedema in the United Kingdom. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2006;31(3):311-5.
Many investigations and treatments exist for lower limb lymphoedema. We undertook a survey on the management of this condition by vascular surgeons and the resources available for its treatment in the UK.

A questionnaire was designed to assess the management of lymphoedema.

A postal questionnaire was sent to all members of the The Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

251/440 (57%) consultant surgeons returned a completed questionnaire comprising 45.3% teaching hospital and 54.7% district general hospital (DGH) consultants. 77.9% of the consultants saw less than 10 patients annually with lymphoedema. The commonest causes of lymphoedema were primary lymphoedema (99.3%) and malignancy (37.1%). Lipoedema, a cause of limb swelling was only seen or recognised by 46.2% of the consultants. The commonest investigations performed were a duplex scan, lymphoscintigram, full blood count and urea and electrolytes. The common methods of confirming lymphoedema were either by lymphoscintigram (54.5%) or from a diagnosis of exclusion (33.7%). Lymphoedema physiotherapy was available only to 53.8% of the consultants. Surgery was performed by 10.5% of consultants. 73.4% of the consultants believed that lymphoedema is managed inadequately and 72.9% believed that resources are insufficient in the UK for this condition.

In the UK the majority of vascular consultants see less than 10 patients annually with lymphoedema. Very few patients undergo confirmation of this diagnosis with non-invasive investigation and very few consultants perform surgery. Management of this condition is perceived by the consultants to be poor, with a lack of resources and particular shortage of lymphoedema physiotherapists. Centralisation of these services may be a way of improving this condition.