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Lymphedema involves blockage of the lymph vessels, with a resulting accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the interstitial tissues of the body. The lymphatic system consists of lymph vessels and lymph nodes throughout the body. The lymph vessels collect lymphatic fluid, which consists of protein, water, fats, and wastes from cells. The lymph vessels transport the fluid to the lymph nodes, where waste materials and foreign materials are filtered out from the fluid. The fluid is then returned to the blood. When the vessels are damaged or missing, the lymph fluid cannot move freely throughout the system but accumulates. This accumulation of fluid results in abnormal swelling of the arm(s) or leg(s), and occasionally swelling in other parts of the body.
Lymphedema is a very serious condition. There is no cure for lymphedema and once it develops, it can be a long-term, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful condition requiring daily treatment. When lymphedema is not treated, the protein-rich fluid continues to accumulate, leading to even more swelling and hardening (referred to as fibrosis) of the tissues. This fluid is a good culture medium for bacteria, thus resulting in reoccurring infections when there are injuries to the skin, decrease or loss of functioning of the affected limbs, and skin breakdown. Infections, referred to lymphangitis, can affect the connective tissue under the skin. Repeated infections may result in scarring, which in turn makes the tissue susceptible to more swelling and infection. Over time, these infections result in tissue hardening (i.e., fibrosis), which is a characteristic of advanced chronic lymphedema. In very severe cases, untreated lymphedema may even result in a rare form of lymphatic cancer called lymphangiosarcoma.
Lymphedema affects approximately 100 million people worldwide, including at least 3 million people in the United States.
Symptoms of lymphedema include:
In 90% of the cases, lymphedema is diagnosed through observations, measurements, and symptoms. The remaining 10% require the use of more complex diagnostic tests such as lymphoscintigraphy. Lymphoscintigraphy is a technique in which a radioactive substance that concentrates in the lymphatic vessels is injected into the affected tissue and is mapped using a gamma camera, which images the location of the radioactive tracer. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scanning, and duplex ultrasound are imaging techniques that are also sometimes used as diagnostic tools for lymphedema.
There are three stages of lymphedema:
Primary lymphedema is an inherited condition, where the patient is born without lymph vessels and nodes. The swelling associated with primary lymphedema usually occurs during adolescence and affects the foot or calf. A rare form of primary lymphedema, called Milroy's Disease, occurs in pregnancy. However, secondary lymphedema, or acquired lymphedema, develops as a result of an injury to the lymph system. Specific causes include surgical treatments for certain types of cancers, especially those cancers that currently require the removal of lymph nodes. Radiation treatment for cancer or for some AIDs-related diseases such as Kaposi-Sarcoma may also result in lymphedema, as radiation may damage or destroy lymph nodes or cause the formation of scar tissue that can interrupt the normal flow of the lymphatic fluid. Specific cancers and their treatment that may result in lymphedema include malignant melanoma, breast (in both women and men), gynecological, head and neck, prostate, testicular, bladder, and colon cancer. Other causes of lymphedema include trauma to the lymphatic system from burns, liposuction, tattooing, injuries, surgery, radiation, obesity, heart or circulatory disease, and multiple sclerosis. Lymphedema in people at risk may not develop the condition immediately, but develop the condition weeks, months, or even years later. Aircraft travel has been linked to the development of lymphedema in patients after cancer surgery, possible due to the decreased cabin pressure.
In Western countries, one of the most common causes of lymphedema is mastectomy with axillary dissection (removal of the breast and underarm lymph tissue for treatment of breast cancer ), which may result in lymphedema of the breast, underarm, or arm on the side of the surgery in 10-20% of patients. This occurs because the lymphatic drainage of the arm passes through the axilla (armpit), and tissue in the axilla is removed during the mastectomy. To reduce the risk of developing lymphedema after breast cancer treatment, there is an alternative treatment that avoids axillary lymph node dissection. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a new diagnostic procedure used to determine whether the breast cancer has spread (metastasized) to axillary lymph nodes. A sentinel lymph node biopsy requires the removal of only one to three lymph nodes for close review by a pathologist. If the sentinel nodes do not contain tumor (cancer) cells, this may eliminate the need to remove additional lymph nodes in the axillary area. Early research on this technique indicates that sentinel lymph node biopsy may be associated with less pain and fewer complications than standard axillary dissection. Because the procedure is so new, long term data are not yet available. However, there is still a risk for developing lymphedema because of follow-up radiation treatments or chemotherapy, which may also damage the lymph nodes.
Persons who have developed lymphedema after cancer treatment should be checked for a possible reoccurrence of cancer if they experience a sudden increase of swelling, for the tumor growth may be responsible for blocking lymphatic flow.
Lymphedema is a chronic condition that cannot be cured, but it can be improved with treatment. There are several major components of a lymphedema treatment program, which should be administered by the health care provider in cooperation with a physical therapist trained in lymphedema treatment. Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT; also referred to as Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) or as Complete Decongestive Physiotherapy (CDP)) combines manual lymph drainage (MLD) with compression techniques and with patient education on self-care needs. The goals of the treatment program are to:
However, some lymphedema specialists feel that lymphedema patients with metastatic cancer should not be treated with CDT, to prevent the spreading of the cancer.
MLD was developed in 1932 in Denmark by a doctor and his wife. It was widely used in Europe and now is accepted as a therapy for lymphedema patients in the United States. In MLD a series of rhythmic, light strokes are made in a specific sequence along the lymphatic vessels and the adjoining tissues. These movements remove the lymph fluids from the tissues and return them to the circulatory system, thus reducing swelling in the affected area.
Compression techniques include the use of compression garments, compression aids, and compression bandages. These techniques encourage natural drainage and prevent swelling by supporting tissues in a way that aids in drainage. Compression garments are knit, stretch sleeves or stockings. Compression aids are custom-fitted sleeves, stockings, or pads made of fabric-covered foam. Bandages are an effective and flexible means of compression. They work when the patient is active or is resting and can easily be adjusted to fit changing limb sizes. However, the bandage should be a special type of short-stretch bandage and not the long-stretch bandage that is commonly known as Ace bandages. Only persons who are trained in lymphedema therapy should tape or wrap swollen areas.
Self-care techniques are practiced by the patient or his or her caregiver at home, between visits to the therapist. Self-care techniques include self-massage, skin care to maintain healthy tissue, nutritious diet, and exercise to increase lymph flow, increase mobility, and to improve the patient's general health.
Exposure to extreme heat has the potential to increase lymphedema swelling, so an affected person or a person at risk of developing lymphedema should avoid hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms.
To keep the affected extremities as healthy as possible, a person with lymphedema should keep the swollen areas clean and avoid heavy lifting and pulling as well as avoid any type of trauma, such as cuts, bruises, sunburn or other burns, injections, sports injuries, insect bites, or cat scratches. Some doctors and lymphedema therapists recommend that a person with lymphedema use a preventative course of antibiotics when having dental treatment, that is, starting antibiotics several days before the appointment and continuing several days afterwards. A person at risk of developing lymphedema (for example, a woman who has been treated for breast cancer) should also observe the same type of precautions to prevent the development of the condition.
If infections occur, then all treatments for lymphedema should be discontinued while the infection is present, and the infection treated with antibiotics.
Surgery is sometimes used to remove excess tissue ("debulking") if the swollen limb becomes so large and heavy as to interfere with movement.
Exercise is important for a person with lymphedema, but only in moderation. If the extremity starts to ache, the person should lie down and elevate the swollen limb. Recommended exercises include walking, swimming, light aerobics, bike riding, and yoga.
Persons with lymphedema should wear a lymphedema alert bracelet or necklace for safety during a medical emergency, explaining the risk of infections. They may also benefit from counseling and membership in support groups to deal with the psychological impact of the disease. Sometimes patients with lymphedema will be denied insurance coverage for treatment; as a result patient advocacy groups in 2005 are attempting to get a law passed through the U.S. Congress guaranteeing insurance coverage for lymphedema.
Alternative and complementary therapies
The use of clinical aromatherapy in conjunction with CDT may improve the quality of life for persons with lymphedema. Clinical aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils to improve the functioning of the immune system, for the immune system is closely associated with the lymphatic system. Also a massage oil comprised of a blend of frankincense, grapefruit, hyssop, and lavender, may be used to soften scarred and fibrotic tissues. Radiation treatments can cause skin contractures, which can be helped by massage with a blend of cajeput, frankincense, hyssop, lavender, sage, and tea tree. Radiation can also have adverse effects on the bowel, resulting in poor bowel functioning, scarring, and activity restrictions. Massaging the abdomen with a blend of grapefruit, fennel, helichrysum, lavender, myrrh, and sage may improve intestinal functions. When compression techniques are used, the underlying skin can be treated with a blend of bay laurel, chamomile, geranium, helchrysum, lavender, patchouli, and vetiver in a combination of castor oil, safflower oil, and grapeseed oil as carrier oils. Good skin care is important in preventing infections. Body oils that contain cajeput, cypress, lavender, marjoram, and rosewood can be applied after bathing to keep the skin moist and healthy. Finger nail beds can be a portal of entry for infections, so can be kept moist with an essential oil blend of chamomile, geranium, lavender, lemon, sage, tea tree, and ylang ylang.
Burt, Jeannie, and White, Gwen. Lymphedema: A Breast Cancer Patient's Guide to Prevention and Healing. Berkeley, CA: Publisher's Group West, 1999.
French, Ramona Moody. Milady's Guide to Lymph Drainage Massage. Clifton Park, NY: Milady Publishing, 2003.
Kelly, Deborah G. A Primer on Lymphedema. Essex, United Kingdom: Pearson Education, 2001.
Parker, James N. and Parker, Philip M.. San Diego, CA: Icon Health Publications, 2004.
Heckathorn, Peg. "Use of Aromatherapy in Lymphedema Management." Lymph Link. Oct-Dec. 2003, Vol. 15, No. 4, 6-12
Lymph Notes, an online information resource and support group for those with lymphedema and for the family, friends, and therapists who care for them. Web site: 〈www.lymphnotes.com/index.php〉
National Lymphedema Network, Latham Square Building, Suite 1111, 1611 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612-2138. Telephone: (800) 541-3259. Fax: (510) 208-3110. Web site: 〈www.lymphnet.org〉
Lymphedema People. Web site: 〈www.lymphedemapeople.com/〉
Lymphatic Research Foundation. 〈http://www.lymphaticresearch.org〉
Lymphedema Awareness Foundation. 〈http://www.elymphnotes.com/〉
Axillary nodes— Lymph nodes found in the armpit that drain the lymph channels from the breast.
Clinical aromatherapy— Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of plant-derived, aromatic essential oils to promote physical and psychological well-being. It is sometimes used in combination with massage and other therapeutic techniques as part of a holistic treatment approach.
Debulking— General term used for surgeries in which subcutaneous tissue is removed from lymphodemous limb.
Fibrosis— Formation of fibrous tissue as a reaction or as a repair process; may occur due to treatment and/or disease. in lymphedema condition known as hardening of the limb with resulting restriction of circulatory flow, increased infection, and weeping sores.
Fibrotic— Pertaining to or characterized by fibrosis. In dermatological description, "fibrotic" would be used to describe leathery, bound-down, or thickened, scarred skin.
Interstitial fluid— The fluid between cells in tissues. Referred to as the liquid subtance of the body.
Interstitial space— The fluid filled areas that surround the cells of a given tissue; also known as tissue space.
Long-stretch bandages— Specialized bandages, similar to an Ace bandage, that have 100 to 200% stretch.
Low-stretch bandage— Specialized bandages, with 30 to 90% stretch, that are used to obtain the correct compression during the treatment of lymphedema; also known as short-stretch bandages.
Lymph— The almost colourless fluid that bathes body tissues and is found in the lymphatic vessels that drain the tissues of the fluid that filters across the blood vessel walls from blood. Lymph carries antibodies and lymphocytes (white blood cells that help fight infection) that have entered the lymph nodes from the blood.
Lymph nodes— Small bean-shaped organs of the immune system, distributed widely throughout the body and linked by lymphatic vessels. Lymph nodes are garrisons of B, T, and other immune cells.
Lymph System— When sickness or infection invades the body, the immune system is the first line of defense. A big part of that defense is the lymph system. Lymph is carried through the body by lymph vessels that have valves and muscles to help move the fluid. Along the route are lymph nodes that serve as filters for harmful substances. This network of vessels and nodes together is called the lymph system.
Lymphatic fluid— The clear fluid found outside the cells which bathes the tissues. It is collected, filtered, and transported by the lymphatic system from around the tissues to the blood circulatory system. Fluid that collects as a result of lymphedema.
Nail beds— The underlying connective tissue that nourishes the finger and toenails.
Pitting edema— When a swollen area is pressed, the pressure leaves an indentation (pit) that takes time to fill back in.
Sentinel node biopsy— A newer procedure performed in order to determine whether breast cancer has spread to auxiliary (underarm) lymph nodes. A blue radioactive tracer and/or blue dye is injected into the area of the breast tumor. The lymphatic vessels carry the dye or radioactive material, to a "sentinel node". This sentinel node is thought to be the first lymph node receiving fluid from the tumor and the one most likely to contain cancer cells if the cancer has spread. Only if the sentinel node contains cancer cells are more lymph nodes removed.
Skin contracture— A permanent tightening of the skin that prevents normal movement of the associated body part and that can cause permanent deformity. A contracture develops when the normally elastic connective tissues are replaced by inelastic fibrous tissue. This makes the affected area resistant to stretching and prevents normal movement.
Sims, Judith. "Lymphedema." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3451601000.html
Sims, Judith. "Lymphedema." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3451601000.html
Lymph Node Dissection
Lymph node dissection
Lymph node dissection (lymphadenectomy) is the surgical removal of lymph nodes in order to assess the spread of cancer.
The lymph system is the body's primary defense against infection. It consists of the spleen, tonsils, thymus, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and the clear, slightly yellow fluid called lymph. These components produce and transport cells and proteins that help rid the body of infection.
The lymph vessels are similar to veins, only instead of carrying blood as veins do, they circulate lymph to tissues in the body. There are about 600 small, bean-shaped collections of tissue found along the lymph vessels. These are called lymph nodes. They produce cells and proteins that fight infection. They also clean and filter foreign cells, such as bacteria or cancer cells, out of the lymph.
Cancer cells can break off from the original tumor and metastasize (spread) through the lymph system to distant parts of the body, where secondary tumors are formed. The purpose of a lymph node dissection is to remove the lymph nodes that have trapped cancer cells so that the extent of spread can be determined. Lymph node dissection is done for many different types of cancers, including cancers of the head and neck, breast, prostate, testes, bladder, colon, and lung.
About 200 lymph nodes are in the head and neck and another 30 to 50 are in the armpit. More are located in the groin area. Lymph nodes are sometimes called lymph glands, although they are not true glands. When someone talks about having swollen glands, they are referring to swollen lymph nodes.
Normally lymph nodes are no larger than 0.5 in (1.3 cm) in diameter and are difficult to feel. However, when lymph nodes trap bacteria or cancer cells, they can increase in size to greater than 2.5 in (6 cm). Most often, hot and painful swollen nodes are caused by trapped bacteria. Swollen lymph nodes caused by cancer are usually painless.
This operation usually will not be performed if the cancer has already metastasized to another site. In this case, removing the lymph nodes will not effectively contain the cancer. As with any surgery, women who are pregnant should inform their doctor before a lymph node dissection.
Lymph node dissection is usually done by a surgeon in a hospital setting, under general anesthesia. An incision is made and tissue is pulled back to reveal the lymph nodes. The surgeon is guided in what to remove by the location of the original cancer. Sample lymph nodes may be sent to the laboratory for examination. If the excised nodes do contain malignant cells, this would indicate that the cancer has spread beyond the original site, and recommendations can then be made regarding further therapy.
Tests may be done before the operation to determine the location of the cancer and which nodes should be removed. These tests may include lymph node biopsies, CT (computed tomography ) scans, and MRI scans. In addition, standard pre-operative blood and liver function tests are performed. The patient will meet with an anesthesiologist before the operation, and should notify the anesthesiologist about all drug allergies and all medication (prescription, non-prescription, or herbal) that he or she is taking.
How long a person stays in the hospital after lymph node dissection depends on how many lymph nodes were removed, their location, and whether surgery to remove the primary tumor or other structures was performed at the same time. Drains are inserted under the skin to remove the fluid that accumulates after the lymph nodes have been removed, and patients are usually able to return home with the drains still in place. Some patients are able to leave the same day or the day following the procedure.
An accumulation of lymph fluid that causes swelling, a condition known as lymphedema, is the most feared side effect of lymph node dissection. If swelling occurs, patients should consult their doctor immediately. Swelling may indicate that a new tumor is blocking a lymph vessel, or that a side effect of lymph node dissection is present. Treatment for lymphedema in people with cancer is different than treatment of lymphedema that arises from other causes. In cancer patients, it is essential to alleviate swelling without spreading cancer cells to other parts of the body, therefore an oncologist (cancer specialist) should be consulted before beginning any treatment.
People who have lymph nodes removed are at increased risk of developing lymphedema, which can occur in any part of the body where lymph accumulates in abnormal quantities. When the amount of fluid exceeds the capacity of the lymph system to move it through the body, it leaks into the tissues and causes them to swell. Removing lymph nodes and lymph vessels through lymph node dissection increases the likelihood that the capacity of the lymph transport system will be exceeded.
Lymphedema can occur days or weeks after lymph node dissection. Radiation therapy also increases the chance of developing lymphedema, so those people who have radiation therapy following lymph node dissection are at greatest risk of experiencing this side effect. Lymphedema slows healing, causes skin and tissue damage, and when left untreated can result in the development of hard or fibrous tissue. People with lymphedema are also at risk for repeated infection, because pools of lymph in the tissues provide a perfect spot for bacteria to grow. In severe cases, untreated lymphedema can develop into a rare form of cancer called lymphangiosarcoma.
Other risks associated with lymph node dissection are the same as for all major surgery: potential bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to anesthesia.
Normal lymph nodes are small and flat and show no cancerous cells under the microscope.
Abnormal lymph nodes are enlarged and show malignant cells when examined under the microscope.
Swirsky, Joan, and Diane Sackett Nannery. Coping with Lym phedema. New York: Avery Penguin Putnam, 1998.
Cancer Information Service. National Cancer Institute. Building 31, Room 10A19, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD20892. (800) 4-CANCER. <http://www.nci.nih.gov/cancerinfo/index.html>
National Lymphedema Network. Latham Square, 1611 Telegraph Ave., Suite 1111, Oakland, CA 94612-2138. (800)541-3259. <http://www.lymphnet.org>
Tish Davidson, A.M.
QUESTIONS TO ASK THE DOCTOR
Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan
—Using x rays taken from many angles and computermodeling, CT scans help determine the size and location of tumors and provide information on whether they can be surgically removed.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
—MRI uses magnets and radio waves to create detailed cross-sectional pictures of the interior of the body.
—Cancerous. Cells tend to reproduce without normal controls on growth and form tumors or invade other tissues.
—Spread of cells from the original site of the cancer to other parts of the body where secondary tumors are formed.
Davidson, Tish. "Lymph Node Dissection." Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3405200276.html
Davidson, Tish. "Lymph Node Dissection." Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer. 2002. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3405200276.html
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that transports nutrients to the cells and collects their waste products. The lymph system consists of lymph capillaries and lymph vessels that are somewhat similar to blood capillaries and blood vessels. In addition, it includes lymph ducts (tubes that carry fluids secreted by glands) and lymph nodes (reservoirs that filter out bacteria and other toxins from the lymph that passes through them).
In the circulatory system, blood flows from the heart, through the arteries, and into capillaries that surround all cells. When blood reaches the capillaries, a portion of blood plasma (the liquid portion of the blood) seeps out of the capillaries and into the space surrounding cells. That plasma is then known as tissue fluid. Tissue fluid consists of water plus dissolved molecules that are small enough to fit through the small openings in capillaries.
Tissue fluid is an important component of any living animal. Nutrients pass out of tissue fluid into cells and, conversely, waste products from cells are dumped back into the tissue fluid.
Some tissue fluid returns to blood capillaries by osmosis. (Osmosis is the process by which fluids and substances dissolved in them pass through a membrane until all substances involved reach a balance.) But some tissue fluid is also diverted into a second network of tubes: the lymphatic vessels. Tissue fluid that enters this network is known as lymph. Lymph is a clear, colorless, somewhat sticky liquid. The liquid formed in a blister is lymph.
Words to Know
Capillaries: Tiny vessels in the body that carry fluids such as lymph and blood.
Lymph: A fluid that runs through the lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, and other lymphatic organs.
Lymphocyte: A cell that functions as part of the lymphatic and immune systems by attacking specific invading substances.
Lymph node: Region of lymphoid tissue along lymph vessels that filters harmful antigens from the blood and some tissues.
Osmosis: Process in which fluids and substances dissolved in liquids pass through a membrane until all substances involved reach a balance.
Movement of lymph
Tissue fluid passes out of the space between cells and through the walls of lymph capillaries. Now called lymph, it follows a pathway back to the heart that is somewhat similar to the venous system for blood. It passes from lymph capillaries into larger tubes, the lymph vessels. Like veins in the blood circulatory system, lymph vessels have valves that help push lymph slowly back towards the heart. Eventually the lymph enters a large collecting tube, the thoracic duct, located near the heart. From the thoracic duct the lymph empties into the blood circulatory system itself at the left subclavian vein.
The lymph system performs a second function also. Fats that have been absorbed in the small intestine enter lymph vessels in that organ. Those fats are then carried through the lymphatic system back into the blood circulatory system.
At various points in the lymphatic system the lymphatic vessels are enlarged to form structures known as lymph nodes. Lymph nodes serve four primary functions. First, they remove from the lymph foreign particles dumped into the tissue fluid from cells. Second, they produce a type of white blood cell known as lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are major components of the body's immune system, which fights disease. They occur
in a variety of forms known as T cells (T lymphocytes) and B cells (B lymphocytes). Third, lymph nodes are home to very large blood cells known as macrophages. Macrophages attack and kill bacteria by surrounding them, swallowing them up, and then dissolving them with enzymes. Fourth, lymph nodes produce antibodies that are used to fight infections.
Lymph nodes are located in the armpit, neck, and groin. One symptom of an infection is that lymph nodes become swollen with harmful material and can be seen or felt.
Diseases of the lymphatic system
The uncontrolled growth of cells and tissues of the lymphatic system result in a condition known as lymphoma, or lymph cancer. Lymphomas are classified into two types, Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin's. Both forms can be fatal. Hodgkin's lymphoma, or Hodgkin's disease, is marked by enlargement of lymph nodes, usually those in the neck. Symptoms of Hodgkin's include chronic fatigue, depressed immune function, weight loss, night sweats, and pain after drinking alcohol. Hodgkin's lymphoma can be treated successfully and cured with radiation or chemotherapy if it is caught in its early stages. Although the cause of Hodgkin's is unknown, males, Caucasians, people of higher socioeconomic status, the well-educated, and people with certain blood types are more prone to develop it. For unknown reasons, Hodgkin's most commonly affects people in their twenties or seventies. People who work with certain chemicals, such as benzene and rubber products, also seem to be more prone to develop the disease.
Several forms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma have been identified. These forms have little in common with each other. One example of a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is Burkitt's lymphoma, prevalent among Central African children. Burkitt's lymphoma is characterized by enlargement of the lymph nodes under the jaw. In contrast with most lymphomas whose causes are unclear, Burkitt's lymphoma has been linked to infection with the Epstein-Barr virus.
Symptoms for most lymphomas are similar. Many patients experience enlargement of the liver and spleen as well as the lymph nodes. Some patients have bloody stools or vomit blood. Tiredness, itching, weight loss, fever, and general failure of the immune system may also be present. These symptoms may diminish and intensify over several months before a diagnosis is made. Sometimes, a bone marrow biopsy (test) is also performed.
Treatment includes radiation or chemotherapy. Effectiveness of such treatments varies depending on the severity of the lymphoma at the time of diagnosis. Bone marrow transplants have been effective against some lymphomas in advanced stages. The cure rate for non-Hodgkin's lymphomas is generally poorer than for Hodgkin's lymphomas.
"Lymphatic System." UXL Encyclopedia of Science. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3438100399.html
"Lymphatic System." UXL Encyclopedia of Science. 2002. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3438100399.html
lymphatic system This comprises a body-wide network of branching lymphatic vessels (carrying the fluid lymph); the lymph nodes and other lymphoid tissue; the lymphocytes (in the circulating blood); the spleen, the bone marrow, and, in early life, the thymus.
That blood circulates is common knowledge. The less dramatic circulation of lymph is less well known, but although its interruption has less immediately hazardous consequences, it is physiologically essential. Also, the lymphoid tissue is a vital component of the body's immune system.
All blood capillaries are to some extent leaky, though the leakiness varies between different organs and tissues. The hydrostatic pressure inside the capillaries is greater than that in the tissues, pushing fluid out. The fluid that leaks out into the interstices among the cells is a little of the watery part of the blood plasma, with all the substances it contains except for the larger proteins. Conversely, some water moves into the capillaries because of the osmotic pull of those proteins. Normally, there is a small net loss from the blood. This fluid movement has the effect of refreshing the tissue fluid in the immediate environment of the cells. Fluid does not accumulate in the tissues, but moves away by entering the blind ends of microscopic lymphatic channels, which are present in all organs and tissues except the central nervous system. These vessels drain into progressively larger ones, and they have valves which maintain flow towards the chest. En route, lymph vessels encounter lymph nodes or other lymphoid tissue such as the patches which lie behind the lining of the large intestine, and the tonsils and adenoids at the back of the throat and nose. The lymph passing through these is exposed to phagocytes which pick up any foreign material, notably bacteria, and take part in the processes of the immune system mediated by the lymphocytes which populate the lymphoid tissue. Thus any invader which gets further than the point of entry, and travels in the lymph, will be ‘challenged’ at the first lymph node it reaches; for this reason an infection for example in a finger may give rise to an inflamed lymph node at the elbow, or if it gets past there, in the armpit; or a sore throat or mouth ulcer can cause tender swollen lymph nodes in the neck. The lymphoid tissue in the wall of the large intestine performs a similar function for any bacterial or other invasion from the faeces.
The lymph nodes are outposts of the immune system, well placed to challenge bacterial invaders. Cancer cells gain access to lymphatic vessels in tumour tissue, and spread by this route; further spread may be initially forestalled at the lymph nodes. For this reason, surgical removal of a malignant tumour may also involve a clearance of the lymph nodes to which its vessels drain. If lymph vessels draining a part of the body (such as an arm) are blocked or removed, there will inevitably be a collection of excess fluid in the catchment area of those vessels: this is one cause of oedema.
The lymph from the whole body (except the central nervous system) finally drains into vessels at the base of the neck (the major one is the thoracic duct) and flow through these into the venous blood stream, on its way to the heart. Thus the fluid lost from the blood capillaries is recycled. Overall, the rate of flow is about 4 litres in 24 hours.
The lymph drained from the small intestine has an additional function: it carries the fats absorbed from the food. Because of this, the lymph in the thoracic duct (known as chyle) has a high fat content; it also has a high protein content because although a very small fraction of the plasma proteins escape from blood capillaries in the tissues, the amount collected from the whole body is significant.
See also blood; immune system; oedema; thymus.
COLIN BLAKEMORE and SHELIA JENNETT. "lymphatic system." The Oxford Companion to the Body. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O128-lymphaticsystem.html
COLIN BLAKEMORE and SHELIA JENNETT. "lymphatic system." The Oxford Companion to the Body. 2001. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O128-lymphaticsystem.html
The lymphatic system plays a vital role as one of the organ systems of the body. This system functions with the digestive system to absorb dietary lipids , which enter lymphatic vessels rather than blood vessels for transport. It also acts with the cardiovascular system to control the body's fluid balance. This is accomplished by a series of interconnected thin-walled lymphatic vessels that permeate the body's tissues that collect substances lost through the walls of capillaries. These lymphatic vessels drain into lymphatic trunks and then into veins.
If lymphatic drainage is temporarily or permanently blocked, the buildup of interstitial fluid creates a condition called lymphedema. In tropical areas of the world, a mosquito-borne roundworm can infect lymph nodes, blocking lymphatic drainage and thereby creating a condition called elephantiasis.
The lymphatic system also plays a vital role in immunity by providing a defensive network against pathogens . Multiple lymphatic organs, all with specialized functions, work together for this purpose. Lymph flowing along the lymphatic vessels passes periodically through lymph nodes, primarily in the neck, armpit, and groin regions. The nodes contain lymphocytes and macrophages that mount an immune response to any pathogen borne within this fluid. Lymphatic vessels also lead to lymph nodes near internal organs such as the heart, lungs, and alimentary canal (gut).
Lining the alimentary canal are collections of mucosa-associated lymphatic tissues (MALT) that form lymphatic nodules. Clusters of lymphatic nodules are also deep to the lining of the alimentary canal. These include Peyer patches of the ileum (lower small intestine) and appendix that guard the entry of pathogens into the internal environment. When the appendix becomes inflamed, appendicitis results.
Other lymphatic organs—the tonsils, thymus, and spleen—also play a critical role in immunity. The tonsils include the pharyngeal tonsil located in the rear of the nasopharynx, the palatine tonsils to the side of the tongue, and the lingual tonsils at the base of the tongue. Together, the tonsils form patches of lymphatic tissue that encircle the back of the oral and nasal cavities as a defense mechanism to detect pathogens before they enter the alimentary canal. If the tonsils become infected, a tonsillectomy may be necessary.
The thymus is found deep to the sternum (breastbone) and superficial to the pericardial sac surrounding the heart. The thymus contains lymphocytes that differentiate into T cells . These cells are vital to the proper function of the immune system.
Finally, the spleen is located in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. It has several functions. Its red pulp stores erythrocytes (red blood cells) for use in cases of sudden blood loss, whereas the white pulp contains macrophages and other leukocytes (white blood cells) that break down old erythrocytes as they squeeze through splenic sinuses. Additionally, these leukocytes can mount an immune response and fight infections that enter this organ. As the spleen contains many vessels, it bleeds easily when ruptured. In such cases, removal of the spleen (splenectomy) may be required to prevent fatal hemorrhage.
A. K. Huxley
Moore, Keith L., and Arthur F. Dalley. Clinically Oriented Anatomy, 4th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 1999.
Saladin, Kenneth S. Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill, 2001.
Huxley, A. K.. "Lymphatic System." Biology. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3400700267.html
Huxley, A. K.. "Lymphatic System." Biology. 2002. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3400700267.html
Lymphatic drainage is a therapeutic method that uses massage-like manipulations to stimulate lymph movement. Lymph is the plasma-like fluid that maintains the body's fluid balance and removes bacteria. Combined with other techniques of complete decongestive physiotherapy, it is used to treat lymphedema, swelling in the limbs caused by lymph accumulation.
The use of massage and compression techniques to treat swollen arms and legs was pioneered by Alexander Von Winiwarter, a nineteenth-century surgeon from Belgium. These techniques were refined during the 1930s by Danish massage practitioner Emil Vodder into what is now known as manual lymph drainage. During the 1980s, German physician Michael Foldi combined lymph drainage with other techniques to develop complete decongestive physiotherapy, widely used in the treatment of lymphedema.
Lymphatic drainage is said to beneficially effect the nervous, immune and muscular systems. Its primary purpose is the treatment of lymphedema, a condition that causes unattractive swelling of arms and legs and creates an environment ripe for infection.
Lymphatic drainage is accomplished by gentle, rhythmic massage following the direction of lymph flow. Mild stretching movements are used on the walls of lymph collectors to redirect the flow away from blocked areas into other vessels that drain into the veins. This massage action is often combined with other elements of complex decongestive therapy, which include:
Any patient who has undergone cancer surgery and experiences sudden swelling after lymphatic drainage should stop treatment and be examined by a medical doctor. Treatment should also be stopped if infection of the lymphatic vessels occurs. The U.S. National Lymphedema Network recommends that patients taking anticoagulants for vascular disease be first checked for blood clots using ultrasound or other technology, and followed closely during the treatment. Congestive heart failure patients who may not be able to tolerate excessive movement of lymph need close monitoring also. If any pain is associated with lymphatic drainage, the treatment should stop until either the source is discovered or the pain goes away.
There are concerns that lymphatic drainage and associated techniques could cause cancer to spread in patients with recurrent or metastatic disease.
Research & general acceptance
Lymphatic drainage has enjoyed widespread acceptance in Europe for several decades, and is gaining acceptance within the North American medical establishment.
Training & certification
Lymphatic drainage therapy procedures are most commonly done by osteopaths, chiropractors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, and nurses. Training is available from a number of institutions, and typically involves about 30–130 hours. The Florida-based Academy of Lymphatic Studies offers certification in manual lymph drainage and complete decongestive therapy.
National Lymphedema Network. Latham Square, 1611 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 1111, Oakland, CA 94612–2138. (800) 541–3259. www.lymphnet.org.
Skinner, Patricia. "Lymphatic Drainage." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435100498.html
Skinner, Patricia. "Lymphatic Drainage." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435100498.html
lymphatic system (lĬmfăt´Ĭk), network of vessels carrying lymph, or tissue-cleansing fluid, from the tissues into the veins of the circulatory system. The lymphatic system functions along with the circulatory system in absorbing nutrients from the small intestines. A large portion of digested fats are absorbed via the lymphatic capillaries. Like the blood circulatory system, the lymphatic system is composed of fine capillaries that lie adjacent to the blood vessels. These merge into larger tributaries known as trunks, and these in turn merge into two still larger vessels called ducts. The thoracic and right lymphatic ducts empty into the venous system in the region of the collarbones. Lymph, a colorless fluid whose composition is similar to that of blood except that it does not contain red blood cells or platelets, and contains considerably less protein, is continuously passing through the walls of the capillaries. It transports nutrients to the cells and collects waste products. Most of the lymph returns to the venous capillaries; however, a small amount (about 10%) enters the terminal lymphatic capillaries and is returned to the blood via the lymphatic system. The fluid that flows through the lymphatic system is functionally important because it contains substances having large molecules (such as proteins and bacteria) that cannot enter the small pores of the venous capillaries. Along the lymphatic network in certain areas of the body (neck, armpit, groin, abdomen, chest) are small reservoirs, the lymph nodes, which collect bacteria and other deleterious agents from the lymph which passes through them, and act as a barrier against the entrance of these substances into the bloodstream. In a disease state, therefore, the lymph nodes may become filled with harmful material to the degree where they can be seen or felt; therefore, enlarged lymph nodes are of diagnostic importance. Such enlargement of the lymph nodes can be a warning sign of various kinds of cancer, including breast cancer and Hodgkin's disease. In cases where a cancerous growth has developed, removal of lymph nodes may help to prevent its further spread. However, such a procedure also slows the flow of lymph and may thus render some of the body vulnerable to infection. See also lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's.
"lymphatic system." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2013. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-lymphati.html
"lymphatic system." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-lymphati.html
lymphatic system The network of vessels that conveys lymph from the tissue fluids to the bloodstream. Tiny lacteals (in the small intestine) and lymph capillaries (in other tissues) drain into larger tubular vessels that converge to form the right lymphatic duct and the thoracic duct, which connect with the venous blood supply to the heart. Associated with the lymphatic vessels at intervals along the system are the lymph nodes. The lymph capillary walls are very permeable, so lymph bathing the body's tissues can drain away molecules that are too large to pass through blood capillary walls. In most vertebrates lymph is pumped by cycles of contraction and relaxation of the lymphatic vessels and also by the action of adjoining muscles. See also lymph heart.
"lymphatic system." A Dictionary of Biology. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O6-lymphaticsystem.html
"lymphatic system." A Dictionary of Biology. 2004. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O6-lymphaticsystem.html
lymphatic system System of connecting vessels and organs in vertebrates that transport lymph through the body. Lymph flows into lymph capillaries and from here into lymph vessels (lymphatics). These extend throughout the body, leading to lymph glands that collect lymph, storing some of the leucocytes (white blood cells). Lymph nodes empty into large vessels, linking up into lymph ducts that empty back into the circulatory system. The lymphatic system plays a major role in the body's defence against disease.
"lymphatic system." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-lymphaticsystem.html
"lymphatic system." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-lymphaticsystem.html
lymphatic system n. a network of vessels that conveys electrolytes, water, proteins, etc. – in the form of lymph – from the tissue fluids to the bloodstream. Lymph passes through fine capillaries into the lymphatic vessels, which have valves to prevent backflow of lymph. The lymphatics lead to two large channels – the thoracic duct and the right lymphatic duct – which return the lymph to the bloodstream via the innominate veins.
"lymphatic system." A Dictionary of Nursing. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O62-lymphaticsystem.html
"lymphatic system." A Dictionary of Nursing. 2008. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O62-lymphaticsystem.html
lym·phat·ic / limˈfatik/ • adj. 1. Physiol. of or relating to lymph or its secretion: lymphatic vessels lymphatic drainage. 2. archaic (of a person) pale, flabby, or sluggish. • n. Anat. a veinlike vessel conveying lymph in the body.
"lymphatic." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-lymphatic.html
"lymphatic." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-lymphatic.html
lym·phat·ic sys·tem • n. the network of vessels through which lymph drains from the tissues into the blood.
"lymphatic system." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-lymphaticsystem.html
"lymphatic system." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-lymphaticsystem.html
1. n. a lymphatic vessel. See lymphatic system.
2. adj. relating to or transporting lymph.
"lymphatic." A Dictionary of Nursing. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O62-lymphatic.html
"lymphatic." A Dictionary of Nursing. 2008. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O62-lymphatic.html
lymphatic system See LYMPH.
MICHAEL ALLABY. "lymphatic system." A Dictionary of Zoology. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O8-lymphaticsystem.html
MICHAEL ALLABY. "lymphatic system." A Dictionary of Zoology. 1999. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O8-lymphaticsystem.html
lymphatic •achromatic, acrobatic, Adriatic, aerobatic, anagrammatic, aquatic, aristocratic, aromatic, Asiatic, asthmatic, athematic, attic, autocratic, automatic, axiomatic, bureaucratic, charismatic, chromatic, cinematic, climatic, dalmatic, democratic, diagrammatic, diaphragmatic, diplomatic, dogmatic, dramatic, ecstatic, emblematic, emphatic, enigmatic, epigrammatic, erratic, fanatic, hepatic, hieratic, hydrostatic, hypostatic, idiomatic, idiosyncratic, isochromatic, lymphatic, melodramatic, meritocratic, miasmatic, monochromatic, monocratic, monogrammatic, numismatic, operatic, panchromatic, pancreatic, paradigmatic, phlegmatic, photostatic, piratic, plutocratic, pneumatic, polychromatic, pragmatic, prelatic, prismatic, problematic, programmatic, psychosomatic, quadratic, rheumatic, schematic, schismatic, sciatic, semi-automatic, Socratic, somatic, static, stigmatic, sub-aquatic, sylvatic, symptomatic, systematic, technocratic, thematic, theocratic, thermostatic, traumatic •anaphylactic, ataractic, autodidactic, chiropractic, climactic, didactic, galactic, lactic, prophylactic, syntactic, tactic •asphaltic •antic, Atlantic, corybantic, frantic, geomantic, gigantic, mantic, necromantic, pedantic, romantic, semantic, sycophantic, transatlantic •synaptic •bombastic, drastic, dynastic, ecclesiastic, elastic, encomiastic, enthusiastic, fantastic, gymnastic, iconoclastic, mastic, monastic, neoplastic, orgastic, orgiastic, pederastic, periphrastic, plastic, pleonastic, sarcastic, scholastic, scholiastic, spastic •matchstick • candlestick • panstick •slapstick • cathartic •Antarctic, arctic, subantarctic, subarctic •Vedantic • yardstick •aesthetic (US esthetic), alphabetic, anaesthetic (US anesthetic), antithetic, apathetic, apologetic, arithmetic, ascetic, athletic, balletic, bathetic, cosmetic, cybernetic, diabetic, dietetic, diuretic, electromagnetic, emetic, energetic, exegetic, frenetic, genetic, Helvetic, hermetic, homiletic, kinetic, magnetic, metic, mimetic, parenthetic, pathetic, peripatetic, phonetic, photosynthetic, poetic, prophetic, prothetic, psychokinetic, splenetic, sympathetic, syncretic, syndetic, synthetic, telekinetic, theoretic, zetetic •apoplectic, catalectic, dialectic, eclectic, hectic •Celtic •authentic, crescentic •aseptic, dyspeptic, epileptic, nympholeptic, peptic, proleptic, sceptic (US skeptic), septic •domestic, majestic •cretic •analytic, anchoritic, anthracitic, arthritic, bauxitic, calcitic, catalytic, critic, cryptanalytic, Cushitic, dendritic, diacritic, dioritic, dolomitic, enclitic, eremitic, hermitic, lignitic, mephitic, paralytic, parasitic, psychoanalytic, pyritic, Sanskritic, saprophytic, Semitic, sybaritic, syenitic, syphilitic, troglodytic •apocalyptic, cryptic, diptych, elliptic, glyptic, styptic, triptych •aoristic, artistic, autistic, cystic, deistic, distich, egoistic, fistic, holistic, juristic, logistic, monistic, mystic, puristic, sadistic, Taoistic, theistic, truistic, veristic •fiddlestick •dipstick, lipstick •impolitic, politic •polyptych • hemistich • heretic •nightstick •abiotic, amniotic, antibiotic, autoerotic, chaotic, demotic, despotic, erotic, exotic, homoerotic, hypnotic, idiotic, macrobiotic, meiotic, narcotic, neurotic, osmotic, patriotic, psychotic, quixotic, robotic, sclerotic, semiotic, symbiotic, zygotic, zymotic •Coptic, optic, panoptic, synoptic •acrostic, agnostic, diagnostic, gnostic, prognostic •knobstick • chopstick • aeronautic •Baltic, basaltic, cobaltic •caustic • swordstick • photic • joystick •psychotherapeutic, therapeutic •acoustic • broomstick • cultic •fustic, rustic •drumstick • gearstick • lunatic
"lymphatic." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (May 20, 2013). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O233-lymphatic.html
"lymphatic." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Retrieved May 20, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O233-lymphatic.html