April 1, 2010

Certified Lymphedema Therapy Offered at Harrington

WEBSTER/SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass., April 1, 2010 - Harrington HealthCare Occupational Therapist Audrey Aho, OTR/L, recently completed 130 hours of training and an 11-day course to become a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT).

"Becoming a CLT is a rigorous and rewarding achievement," said Ed Moore, President and CEO of Harrington. "We are proud Audrey is able to bring such a high level of care to our patients who need specific treatment."

Individuals diagnosed with Lymphedema have an accumulation of fluid in their tissues which results in swelling. The lymphatic system, made up of large lymph nodes and vessels, plays a large role in the immune function and circulation.

Lymphedema is often described as primary or secondary, Aho said. Primary Lymphedema is likely a genetic malformation at birth.

"Many of us could be walking around with a lymphatic system disorder and we wouldn't know it until we injure the area," she said.

The malformations are most common in women, often seen after pregnancies, and can occur in the legs, arms or torso.

Secondary Lymphedema is often the result of damage to the lymphatic system. Individuals who have recently undergone a mastectomy or prostate cancer might develop lymphdema.
Basic lymphedema therapy consists of Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) and bandage/compression garment fitting. Manual Lymph Drainage is a gentle hands-on technique that stimulates the activity of the lymph vessels and manually moves lymph fluid.

"It's a very superficial technique; it's not a deep massage," Aho said.

Applied correctly, a series of MLD treatments will generally decrease the volume of the affected extremity.
While there is no cure for lymphedema, the goal of therapy is to reduce swelling (with MLD treatments) and retain reduction (with gradual compression bandaging).

As a licensed therapist, Aho also educates her patients, and discusses proper exercise, skin care and nutrition. She says when the condition is diagnosed early and treatment has begun, the success rate is high with patient compliance.

"If the patients are doing what we recommend, wearing the garments and doing at home exercising, the success is very high," she said.

Aho's certification is unique, and fulfills a pressing need in the community.

A CLT can also treat patients with venous insufficiencies (where you leg swells because the veins cannot pump enough blood back to your heart).

Aho's main office is located inside the Cancer Center at Harrington, 55 Sayles St. in Southbridge, but she is able to see and treat patients at the Harrington HealthCare at Hubbard Rehabilitation Center on Cudworth Road in Webster.
A doctor's referral is required.

For more information, please visit www.harringtonhospital.org or the National Lymphedema Network at www.lymphnet.org.