Addition of Lymphatic Stimulating Self-Care Practices Reduces Acute Attacks among People Affected by Moderate and Severe Lower-Limb Lymphedema in Ethiopia, a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial.

Douglass J, Hailekiros F, Martindale S, Mableson H, Seife F, Bishaw T, Nigussie M, Meribo K, Tamiru M, Agidew G, Kim S, Betts H, Taylor M, Kelly-Hope L

Lymphedema causes disability and exacerbates poverty in many countries. The management of lymphatic filariasis (LF) and podoconiosis-related lymphedema involves daily hygiene to reduce secondary infections, but self-massage and deep-breathing, which have proven beneficial in cancer-related lymphedema, are not included. A cluster randomized trial in northern Ethiopia investigated the effects of lymphatic stimulation for people affected by moderate to severe lymphedema. Participants were allocated to either standard (control = 59) or enhanced (intervention = 67) self-care groups. Primary outcomes were lymphedema stage, mid-calf circumference, and tissue compressibility. Secondary outcomes were the frequency and duration of acute attacks. After 24 weeks, fewer patients were assessed as severe (control -37.8%, intervention -42.4%, = 0.15) and there were clinically relevant changes in mid-calf tissue compressibility but not circumference. There was a significant between-group difference in patients who reported any acute attacks over the study period (control = 22 (38%), intervention = 7 (12%), = 0.014). Daily lymphedema self-care resulted in meaningful benefits for all participants with a greater reduction in acute episodes among people performing lymphatic stimulation. Observations of a change in lymphedema status support earlier findings in Bangladesh and extend the demonstrated benefits of enhanced self-care to people affected by podoconiosis.