Research Output

Lymphoedema: an underestimated health problem.

  Background: Lymphoedema/chronic oedema is an important cause of morbidity in the population, but little is known of its epidemiology and impact on patients or health services.

Aim: To determine the magnitude of the problem of chronic oedema in the community, and the likely impact of oedema on use of health resources, employment and patient’s quality of life.

Design: Questionnaire-based survey.

Methods: Health professionals from dedicated lymphoedema services, specific out-patient clinics, hospital wards and community services (GP clinics and district nurses) were contacted to provide information on patients from within South West London Community Trust. A subset of the identified patients was interviewed.

Results: Within the catchment area, 823 patients had chronic oedema (crude prevalence 1.33/1000). Prevalence increased with age (5.4/1000 in those aged > 65 years), and was higher in women (2.15 vs. 0.47/1000). Only 529 (64%) were receiving treatment, despite two specialist lymphoedema clinics within the catchment area. Of 228 patients interviewed, 78% had oedema lasting > 1 year. Over the previous year, 64/218 (29%) had had an acute infection in the affected area, 17/64 (27%) being admitted for intravenous antibiotics. Mean length of stay for this condition was 12 days, estimated mean cost £2300. Oedema caused time off work in > 80%, and affected employment status in 9%. Quality of life was below normal, with 50% experiencing pain or discomfort from their oedema.

Discussion: Chronic oedema is a common problem in the community with at least 100 000 patients suffering in the UK alone, a problem poorly recognized by health professionals. Lymphoedema arising for reasons other than cancer treatment is much more prevalent than generally perceived, yet resources for treatment are mainly cancer-based, leading to inequalities of care.

  • Type:

    Article

  • Date:

    01 October 2003

  • Publication Status:

    Published

  • Publisher

    Oxford University Press

  • DOI:

    10.1093/qjmed/hcg126

  • ISSN:

    1460-2725

  • Library of Congress:

    RT Nursing

Citation

Moffatt, C., Franks, P., Doherty, D., Williams, A., Badger, C., Jeffs, E., …Mortimer, P. S. (2003). Lymphoedema: an underestimated health problem. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine. 96, 731-873. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcg126. ISSN 1460-2725

Keywords

Lymphoedema/chronic oedema; Inequalities of care; Cancer treatment

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