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Lymphoedema in advanced cancer: does subcutaneous needle drainage improve quality of life?
  1. Amanda Landers and
  2. Julia Holyoake
  1. Nurse Maude Hospice Palliative Care Service, Nurse Maude Association, Christchurch, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amanda Landers, Hospice, Nurse Maude Association, Christchurch 8146, New Zealand; Amanda.Landers{at}


Purpose Lower limb lymphoedema in the palliative care population has limited treatment options. Subcutaneous needle drainage is an underused procedure that has previously been described in the literature for refractory lymphoedema. This study will quantify the potential improvements to quality of life and the adverse outcomes for this group of patients.

Methods This was a multicentre, non-randomised, observational trial using a validated questionnaire before and after the procedure. A tailored mobility measurement was also used. It extends a published pilot previously undertaken.

Results Thirty-two procedures were performed on 31 patients across three sites. The average drainage volume was 5.5 L. The domain of appearance (3.2 vs 2.8 vs 2.6) improved significantly and was sustained. All of the domains, except appearance, showed a significant improvement at 2 weeks. The cellulitis rate was 6%.

Conclusion Subcutaneous needle drainage appears to improve quality of life in those with lower limb lymphoedema facing a life-limiting illness.

  • lymphoedema
  • palliative care
  • subcutaneous needle drainage

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Funding This study was funded by the Genesis Oncology Trust.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.