Localised services for Lymphoedema can save 15,000 bed nights and €13m 


New  ‘Model of Care’ for Lymphoedema needs urgent roll out 

Improved outcomes for patients, 15,000 hospital bed nights and €13m in savings – can be achieved through developing dedicated localised services for Lymphoedema.

That’s according to Lymphoedema Ireland, which today said that a first-ever ‘Model of Care’ for Lymphoedema treatment was agreed by the HSE last month – and now needs to rolled out urgently.

Chairperson Bernie Traynor said the condition, which causes swelling of the body with fluid, affects 15,000 people and requires lifelong treatment. The proven approach is to make routine treatment readily available locally, which avoids problems escalating and unnecessary hospital admissions.

“Treatments such as Combined Decongestive Therapy (CDT) should be standardised and accessible locally in all primary care centres. These can be delivered by already trained HSE staff including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and nurses.

“We estimate that once localised treatment services are resourced nationally, it will deliver net annual savings to the health service of €13m and free up 15,000 hospital bed nights. 

“This would also be much better for patients who due to routine access to drainage, bandaging and compression garments – would mostly avoid ending up in hospital.”

Lymphoedema involves painful swelling in the body’s tissues. Primary Lymphoedema is a genetic condition and secondary Lymphoedema mainly occurs following cancer treatment, particularly breast cancer. It can affect any part of the body, but usually develops in the arms or legs.

In 2014 the HSE prepared an initial report on how the condition is treated in Ireland, however it was never published. In 2016 the HSE appointed a National Coordinator and a Working Group was established. 

Lymphoedema Ireland said that a first-ever Model of Care for Lymphoedema in Ireland was finalised by the HSE last month, but there was no detail yet on how or when this would be implemented.

Approximately 1,000 of patients are children and Ms Traynor said the development of treatment services should also address the needs of children.

A third issue raised was a call for a long term illness card for those affected. “Lymphoedema is a lifelong condition and a long-term card should be an integral part of public treatment,” Ms Traynor said.

Ms. Traynor said that the message from patients was that “a coordinated standardised national programme needs to be implemented urgently with earlier diagnosis, localised access to care and a risk reduction plan for cancer treatments. This will require a small level of initial resourcing, but will bring much better outcomes for patients and significant long-term savings for the health service.”


Patient Support Day

Lymphoedema Ireland is organising a National Patient Support day in Dublin on Saturday March 30th. More information on registering at www.lymphireland.com/open-day-2019/


Lymphoedema Ireland is a voluntary patient group representing patients and their carers. It provides information, a telephone helpline, an online discussion forum and an Annual Support Day. 



Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.


Web: www.lymphireland.com

Twitter: @LymphIreland

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LymphIreland/

World Lymphoedema Day 2019: https://lymphaticnetwork.org/wld/



NOTES to Editor


About Lymphoedema


Lymphoedema is a long-term swelling caused by a build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues. This happens when the lymphatic system, which normally drains fluid, isn’t working properly.


Lack of treatment can lead to increased swelling and pain, irreversible damage to the lymphatic system, recurrent infections, the inability to work and reduced psychological well-being and quality of life.


There are two types of lymphoedema: Primary Lymphoedema develops if you have a body structure which puts you at a higher risk and people may be born with this condition or develop it later in life.


Secondary Lymphoedema develops because of damage to lymphatic vessels or from an overload of fluid which can be caused by: radiotherapy, advanced cancer, deep vein thrombosis, cellulitis, paralysis or obesity.


There is no cure, but if diagnosed early extreme swelling can be controlled and reduced, infection prevented and the range of movement can be improved.


Early warning signs


  1. Transient swelling of a limb or other region of the body
  2. Infection
  3. Aching, heaviness, stiffness in the affected body part
  4. Limitation of movement
  5. Tightness or temperature changes to areas of the body
  6. Clothing, jewellery or shoes may feel tighter
  7. Swelling may be aggravated by heat, overuse, sustained positions or prolonged inactivity.