Lymphedema – the swelling of an extremity caused by the accumulation of intercellular fluid – is a condition that affects nearly 400,000 U.S. women. In a previous blog, I invited Wilma Morgan OTR/L, CLT-LANA, the Lymphedema Specialist in Fox Chase’s Rehabilitation Department, to address some common questions surrounding the condition. Today, I have invited Wilma back to introduce a new measurement tool soon to be introduced at Fox Chase called a perometer that can make a significant difference in the quality of life for our patients who struggle with lymphedema and can also help prevent onset of the condition.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Board of Associates for their generous support of this new tool that will improve the lives of our patients.
Be Well, Bob
Since I began at Fox Chase 11 years ago, my team has been passionate about finding ways to make the lives of our patients more comfortable. Each day, I treat five to six patients living with chronic lymphedema, and we often see each other two to three times a week, working diligently to manage the effects of the swelling. I move through a standard series of four steps: manually massaging the lymphs to remove fluid, teaching exercises that can be done at home to ease discomfort, providing skin care to prevent infection, and placing a compression garment to reduce the size of the swollen limb.
Improving the lives of our lymphedema patients
But when our new perometer arrived just a few weeks ago, I knew it would change the way we manage lymphedema for the better. A perometer is a computerized, digital scanner that measures the size and volume of a patient’s limbs. This one piece of technology significantly enhances our patients’ experience through improved consistency and speed. In just 10 seconds, I can get a clear picture of the lymphedema’s progress and track specific areas where swelling is most severe. Measurements that previously took up to 15 minutes manually, now only take 1-2 minutes, leaving more time for other aspects of therapy.
Not only is the perometer a great tool in therapy, but also in research and prevention. Fox Chase strives to find the most effective methods for treating and managing cancers, and we intend to use the perometer to proactively work to prevent lymphedema.
According to a large study from the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., if lymphedema is diagnosed at only 3 percent progression, immediate treatment can reverse the process. I hope to be able to work with the physicians to take benchmark limb scans with the perometer on all patients undergoing a node dissection before they enter the operating room. We can then more easily track any changes in limb size after surgery to prevent the development of lymphedema.
I anticipate using the perometer with all my patients in the near future, as Fox Chase offers this new tool to improve the quality of life for patients. I cannot wait to see the positive outcomes.
If you have any questions about lymphedema or the perometer, I encourage you to post them here or ask me at your next therapy session. Our staff members will be happy to answer them.
Have you used the new perometer? If so, let us know what you thought of it!